Monday, December 31, 2018

A funny old year

2018 will go down as the year I fished least since I got serious about fishing. Counting the days in my diary there were ten. Despite this I still managed to catch one more double figure pike than in my first serious season fishing for them. That season was a hard slog. I think it was over twenty sessions for four pike - two doubles. I guess with age come experience and that helps put a few fish on the bank for less apparent effort.

What doesn't put fish on then bank is not going fishing. The reasons this year were a combination of cold and wet early on and a heatwave later. Add on a dollop of other interests and a smidgen of feeling under the weather and the motivation was soon lost. Once it's gone, if there is something to take its place, it can go for good. Not that it matters in the broader scheme of things. Fishing isn't life. So long as I have something to fill my spare time and, more importantly, occupy my mind, it's not the end of the world. These days taking photographs is fulfilling that role.In some ways the two are similar. You go to big fish waters if you want to catch big fish, you go to places where the subjects you want to photograph are. In both cases the results are not guaranteed!

I'm not selling my tackle just yet. My renewal for one club I belong to is in the post. Springtime will soon be here. A change in the weather might get me moving again. What I need is a fishy challenge, something new to do. If I don't find one then this blog may well have run its course.

On that cheery note, Happy New Year!

Monday, December 10, 2018

Something in the air

Maybe it was the way the sun was sifted through the clouds or the stillness and warmth in the air making it feel more like early spring rather than early winter that got me gathering my pike gear after lunch. For the first time in ages I actually felt like I needed to go fishing. To my surprise I had the place to myself. Apart from the huge flock of fieldfares which flew up from the hawthorns surrounding the car park when I arrived.

On Saturday damp feet had reminded me there was a pair of boots waiting for me in the country store and I'd been breaking them in ever since. Despite the boots feeling pretty comfortable this had resulted in a rather large blister on one big toe. I wasn't fit to walk to a distant swim so hobbled to one in sight of the car which had been good to me in the past.

After a freezer disaster during the summer I hadn't much choice in the deadbait trays. One pack of lamprey and one of small blueys would have to do. Two baits I have confidence in as it happens.  Half a lamprey was dropped in the margin to my right and a bluey to the left. Then I set about tying on a new trace to the third rod. This was rigged with a lamprey head and cast out to a feature. All was quiet and still.

Save for some bubbles repeatedly appearing just out from my right hand bait nothing happened. With it being so mild I wondered if bream fishing might have been a better idea. After an hour I moved.

The same baits were spread around the swim. The banker lamprey head was dropped next to the banker overhanging bush. That would trundle off when the light faded. Another hour later I repositioned the left hand and middle baits. Half an hour on I did it again. There was no fishy activity to be seen.

The fieldfare flock returned, flew overhead. Perched briefly in some tree tops. Then disappeared. From the reeds at the side of my swim came the angry churring of a blue tit and a higher pitched call. A small bird-shaped silhouette materialised. Smaller than a blue tit with a finer, more pointy beak. It flitted across my swim into a hawthorn and I realised it was a goldcrest. The first I've seen at the water. It was soon gone. The blue tit quietened down too.

It was still mild when the orange of the floats faded to grey and eventually to black against the water surface. Three hours and no pike activity. Head torch on and time to head home to fill my rumbling belly.

In some ways it had been good to be back by the water. Being increasingly impatient as I get older a fish or two would have made it even better. At least the gear is now ready to go as the whim takes me. That excuse has been eliminated! I might even stock up on bait.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Irish pike need your Euros

There were hopes that the tide was turning for Irish pike. Their status as an introduced species had been successfully questioned by scientific research. The wanton removal of pike looked as if it would be curtailed, and maybe even stopped in the not too distant future. Sadly, politics appears to have changed all that.

Since 2006 only one pike over 50cm was allowed to be taken by an angler. This went a long way to prevent (when obeyed and enforced) the wholesale slaughter of pike by anglers fishing for the pot or out of blind hatred of pike.

Sadly there remains a faction of Irish anglers who cannot accept that pike are native to their waters, that they play a beneficial role in the ecosystems, or that they are not intent on eating every trout and salmon that swims. Plain and simple they want to see an Ireland without pike. Some dream of an Ireland where only salmonids swim.

Through exerting political pressure in the face of scientific evidence these anglers have succeeded in lobbying to get a bye-law passed allowing the taking of four specimen pike per angler per day in certain limestone loughs. Although this bye-law is limited in its geographical application it is a major retrograde step for both pike, pike angling, and the economy in the area to which it applies. It also sets a most worrying precedent.

Irish pike anglers are not at all happy (gross understatement) with either the the bye-law or the manner in which it has been brought into force. Such is their anger that they are seeking to mount a challenge in the High Court to the legislation. This will cost money. Thanks to the internet it now only takes a few clicks for pike anglers around the world to give their support to the cause. If every pike angler contributes a few Euros their target will soon be met.

Please follow this link (please share far and wide) to read more details about this disgraceful state of affairs, and maybe add your donation to the pot.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Another handle style

Quite why I've built three sets of rods with cork handles that featured short cork 'cones' in front of the reel seat over the last few weeks is probably coincidence. Maybe the look has grown on me because of this, but I'm liking it.

For most rods the foregrip serves no practical function. Certainly when using a fixed spool reel.

On thicker diameter blanks there's not much scope for fitting a winding check (as per photo on the right), but on slimmer blanks a fine aluminium check is an option.

Functional and aesthetically pleasing to my eye.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Out of the habit

I read an interview with a photographer, Homer Sykes, who said that he was no longer obsessed by photography, it had become a habit. Thinking about it I reckon that's what fishing happens to the angling obsessed.The heatwave put me off moving around, let alone fishing, and by the time it was over I was out of the habit of going fishing. Getting back into it is proving difficult.

When someone mentioned seeing a decent perch caught locally it gave me a bit of an idea to try somewhere new. I'm definitely in need of some kind of piscatorial challenge. I rigged up that ultralight rod I'd build, threw my box of perch spinners (they are a safer bet than that new-fangled drop-shotting nonsense) in a shoulder bag and set off on the tedious journey to my destination.

It was a warm evening back in August. I only lasted half an hour before I got bored. To be honest the venue was small with not much scope for exploration, so when I'd caught a tiny perch I reckoned that was my challenge completed!

After that it was back to my new obsession - taking photographs of sheep at agricultural shows which I'd sort of set myself as a project for the summer. Even back in my twenties when I was a pike obsessive I always maintained that if angling were banned I'd find something else to do. In some ways going fishing has always been a diversionary activity for me. A way of avoiding real life!

Another habit I've been in, since the very first time it was held, is going to the Pike Anglers' Club annual convention. Originally as an attendee and latterly as an exhibitor. This year I almost broke that habit too. There was a sheep show on the same day...

From a financial point of view I'd not have been much worse off if I had taken the sheep road. In terms of cash in my hand, for the first time I can remember, it was disappointing. I usually end up with a good few empty pegs on my display board of hooks, swivels and other rig bits. Not this time, although rod orders taken on the day were worth the effort. Even so, I have to admit that three hour drives at daft o'clock appeal less and less to me as I get older and older even if there is money to be made.

What was apparent at the show was the lack of young faces. Thirty years ago I'd say the age range of the pikers in attendance was mid-twenties to late thirties. Now it's those ages plus thirty. The same old (operative word) faces as back then. I don't know if this is indicative of a lack of younger pike anglers, or whether they are out there but events like the convention don't appeal to them.

Talking to a few of the pikers of my generation and a little older I was relieved to find that I'm not alone in losing the drive to fish. As one said to me, "We've done it all." Maybe not all, but certainly a lot. And there isn't much left in angling that I haven't done that I've wanted to do. The few things left undone have probably been left because they never really interested me much. Getting them over with would be more of a box ticking exercise than a really enjoyable challenge. Sort of like cramming to pass an exam.

One display that did interest me was that from the Anglers National Line Recycling Scheme. Apart from the positive PR the scheme has the potential to generate, it is doing something practical. Being primarily a braid user my line lasts me years, but even braids can be recycled through the scheme. Although they do have to be kept apart from nylon lines.

Notable by their absence this year (not for the first time) was the Angling Trust. Despite their absence they were talked about. Listening to people with their fingers on the political pulse and reading the trade press I am getting the impression that peopel are losing patience with the Angling Trust.

I haven't renewed my membership for a few years now. Since the last time they had a stand at the PAC show in fact. I always used to renew my ACA subs at the show, and continued that with AT. But if they can't be bothered to support a member organisation's annual event then I'm reluctant to give them my money. Especially when I'm not convinced it is being spent wisely or in my interests. I'd be less cynical if I thought those who run the outfit were real anglers, out there week in week out, and not the holiday fishermen they appear to be. A few more coarse and sea anglers in high office would be reassuring too.

The argument for supporting AT because they are 'the only game in town' when it comes to lobbying government or other authorities is wearing thin. In this age electronic communication there are other ways to make a noise that don't involve going through the official channels. And if you can create enough noise in cyberspace you will be listened to. There are other organisations who may be willing to fight the angler's corner too. Time for AT to take a good look at itself. Keep an eye on Catch Cult magazine if you have an interest in the machinations of Angling Trust.

During the aforementioned heatwave I had a freezer malfunction. While it forced me to throw out some ancient pike baits it left the cupboard bare. I must be getting some fishing urges because I have started to restock the deadbait drawer. With a nip in the air some mornings I am starting to envisage a chunky orange float rocking in a gently rippling reflection of golden leaves. But there is this sheep show...

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Cooling down

The heatwave, a backlog of rod builds and a general lack of enthusiasm for fishing has seen me indulging an a lot of slobbing around wishing it wasn't so hot, and a bit of photography.

Some of the rod builds have been custom hobs involving thread colour combinations and other adornments I was a bit unsure of. One of these combinations I knew would look quite tasteful. The cork 'cone' foregrip, lengthy inscription and Union Jack I was less sure of. It turned out better than I'd imagined. Maybe it was the slim aluminium collar which set things off.

 I've used white as a tipping colour once before and it turned out better than I'd expected. But with purple thread I was less certain. While there is a bit of a Cadbury's Dairy Milk look to the finished article, it really isn't bad.

The downrigger rods are now done. These were a challenge of a different kind as I'd been asked to match the handle on an existing rod. With a bit of ingenuity I managed to customise some preformed corks ordered in from the USA and get within a gnat's whisker. The thread colour in this instance I knew would look okay.

Back in the mists of time I read something where the author said that carbon had been invented too soon as it put an end to the development of fibreglass as a blank material. E-glass was just starting to be used when carbon ousted it. These 9ft 6in downrigger blanks are E-glass and they'd make great carp stalking rods. But nobody would buy them because they're fibreglass.

While the outside diameter of the blanks is greater than a carbon blank of similar action there is no increase in weight. Not that I directly compared these blanks to anything they are much lighter than thick walled old style glass blanks. The taper is medium fast, giving a sensitive tip with power low down but with a medium/through action. All academic though as carbon rules the rod roost now.

Fishing? Maybe next week. Maybe...

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Pesky eels

At last I got the urge to go fishing again. Lots of work and lots of heat had resulted in lots of lethargy. And it doesn't take much to encourage lazy old me to do nothing! The enthusiasm must have returned because I got two rods rigged up during the afternoon. Just the two because the only bait I had was a small tub of dendrobenas. I'd be bunching them up, and knowing that bait nibbling bootlaces love these worms I didn't reckon on them lasting too long. One rod was a straight leger, the other had my off-bottom rig on it.

No need for an early start saw me setting off around eight as the day was beginning to cool down. Not wanting to walk too far I headed for no fish bay. And after taking some photographs of a swan and it's cygnet I settled in a swim which gave me some marginal cover on bot the near and far sides.

The legered bait went to the opposite bank, short of an overhanging willow, and the off bottom bait was swung out to my right. It was after a flock of swallows flew along the bay as dusk arrived that I had my first twitchy take to the near side worms. The pattern was set. Twitchy takes to the close in rod.

As it got darker the frequency of the takes increased. Going on past experience I thought there was probably a small eel, or pod of eels, responsible. Eventually I'd connect with one of the takes. I did get one positive run to the legered worms, but they were dropped just as I got my hand to the rod. another frequent frustration when eeling. For me if for nobody else.

True to form patience paid off and shortly after eleven thirty my strike of the off bottom bait rod resulted in something pulling back. That something wasn't big enough to warrant getting the net wet and slimy. With the eel swung in it decided to tangle and slime my hook and lead links. Which were unentanglable by headtorch light. I'd had enough. The mess could be sorted out in daylight at a later date! The worms were getting low anyway...

Saturday, May 26, 2018


It didn't take long for the hawthorn to catch up with where it ought be. One week on and the bushes were a froth of white blossom. The sun was continuing to heat the world up, and apparently put the pike down as I fruitlessly chucked a fresh selection of lures around for a short evening session.

For some reason, quite possibly the state of frustration I seem to get in when the weather is hot, once something goes wrong in that sort of weather I get ratty, which makes more stuff go wrong, making me even more narky. That was why I'd gone fishing in the first place. To chill out!

After that session a load of rod bits I'd been waiting for for ages all turned up at once, meaning it's been work all the way since then. I have relieved the boredom with a few 'project' builds. One is a rebuild of a rod I built a long time ago, another is a pair of E-glass downrigger rods. Those are paying jobs. The third is an ultralight rod I've just finished off which is a bit of a cock up. I'd been asked if I could build an ultralight rod and said I had no source for a suitable blank. A couple of days later I remembered I did have a source and ordered a two piece, seven foot two, ultralight blank. When it arrived I'd forgotten who had been looking for on. I guess it's too late for me to change my ways and get organised!

As I had to order some fittings from the USA for the downrigger rods I added some fancy bits to the order to make up the ultralight. When they arrived I started playing around with them on the blank in the downtimes waiting for glues and varnishes to dry on other rods. It's turned out quite nicely.

Split grips seem to be in vogue on lure rods these days. I have no idea why. I don't think they are very practical. As for the humpbacked reel seat. It feels better than it looks, but my sweaty hands would soon have the soft-touch finish rotting and peeling off!

Had I taken a bit more time considering the build the foregrip would have been changed. It doesn't convince me as it stands.

Thread colour was a tough decision. The blank has a sort of metallic hint to the olive. I went with olive thread tipped with three turns of a sandy shade. How to finish the folding hook keeper was a test. The other week I'f fitted one to a barbel rod for a customer who wanted it a few inches above the rod's handle. I did that and the lettering went between keeper and cork. It looked quite nice. So I scaled the concept down for the ultralight, and did some tricky small lettering.

Ring selection was another conundrum. A couple of years back I built some light spinning rods for a customer with high stand off single foot Fujis. They were on my radar but the frames are a bit heavy for such a light and fine blank. While browsing the US supplier's website I found some similar rings from PacBay in their Minima range.

I've fitted Minimas to a handful of rods for customers, and have a set on trial on my FXH prototype rod. I don't like them. The frames are light but a little agricultural compared to Fujis, and with heavy braid they can be a bit noisy. But for a light rod, to be used with light lines for lightweight fish they will be no worse than the hard chrome rings we used to use in the Dark Ages.

Because the reels used on UL rods have tiny spools there's no need for over-large butt rings, and standing off so much the ring centre is more in line with the spool than it would be in a lower set ring. Whether I'll give this rod a run out remains to be seen!

Talking of the Dark Ages. Here are four canal tench I caught back in 1981. First up is a rare 'bag shot'. I usually returned each tench after weighing.

The second picture is of what remained my PB for some ten years before it was beaten by a fish over twice the weight. It's still my PB float caught tench!

Friday, May 11, 2018

Same old story

These days I find fishing is more therapy than hobby. I seem to go fishing when I need to ease the tension. Yesterday my stress levels had been raised by some infuriating photo-scanning software which not only ran as slowly as usual (which I can live with) it also manage to store the scans in a different folder than it had last time I used it, and promptly lost them all when it decided to crash. Instead of smashing the scanner into tiny pieces with a lump hammer I grabbed a lure rod from the rack, found the box of lures I used last spring, and set off into a warm and sunny evening.

Although late, the hawthorn blossom is not as far behind as the blackthorn was. By the meteorological calendar it's almost summer, but according to the blossom it's mid-spring.

I started out casting a small black Darter given to me by Carl who is producing Loz Harrop Lures. It worked well, but the pike didn't like it any more than I did. I've never got on with tight action, subsurface, baits. Topwaters which walk like that are great, but deeper I prefer a lazier action. A wider glide, or a dive/rise. Pauses are easier to control.

Time to revert to type and chuck a squirrely Burt around. In the third swim it took one cast along the edge to entice a small pike into action. It either missed the lure or failed to get hooked. It was nothing to get upset about when it's second attempt failed on the follow-up cast either.

Two more swims were thrashed before I made another lure change. This time to a sleeper lure which would be in my top ten. The only in-line spinner that I have ever rated for big pike. Not that I've had any really big ones on it, only teenagers, but I know it has caught some lumps for other people. It's easy to cast, easy to fish, and it has its days.

In the seventh swim of the evening the sleeper elicited the same response Burt had done earlier. Two missed chances (whether mine or the fish's I'm not sure) from a similarly sized pike. Time to get the Jackpot out. Perhaps conditions weren't right, but surface action was non-existent. Back to Burty Boy.

I spent some time working the Burt around a promontory while a pair of Canada geese kept a wary eye on me from across the bay as four small balls of fluff with clockwork legs pecked the grass around them. Time was getting on and the air cooling. Back to the usual two swims near the car for the last fifteen minutes.

It only took three casts for the Burt to get hit just short of the rod top. As the pike, maybe a little shorter than the lure, thrashed around I decided against swinging it to hand for the unhooking and to let it shake itself free on a semi-slack line. The plan worked.

In the final swim of my two hour session the drop in temperature was noticeable by the water coming off the braid feeling decidedly chilly on my right hand. Definitely time for home.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Every picture tells a story

Shortly after my previous post the famed Beast from the East arrived, bringing with it a lovely present for me in the form of a bug that was doing the rounds. It was like a cold, not quite flu, but long-lasting. Everyone I know who had it took at least four weeks to feel anything like normal again. I was no exception. Going out of the house for food was a chore, so fishing was out all together. By the time I felt as fit as I usually do pike time had gone and it wasn't warming up enough for anything else to interest me. That's why it took the arrival of some unseasonably warm weather (which came without a catchy name) to fire me up for a springtime overnighter.

Thursday to Friday was looking favourite, but when I'd sorted my tackle out I couldn't find the groundbait and pellets I thought I had. There was a bucket and a half of seed mix, but not enough time to soak it. Never mind, Friday night would be fine. It would give me a chance to pick up some pellets and stuff before I set off. In theory.

The tackle shop was devoid of the pellets I wanted. "Due in later today." Great. I picked up some rubbishy pellets for putting in PVA bags and some soft hookers which turned out to split when I pushed my baiting needle through them.

After having a plumb around the first half hour was spent spodding out particles. The sun has bright and warm where I was. Sheltered from the moderate north westerly. Small fish were dimpling, flipping and fleeing from predators. One or two better fish showed, but none of the bream I was hoping for. With the bait out the rods were readied and soon resting on the pod. Fake corn, fake caster, and a pellety thing. Time for tea.

The evening wore on. The wind eased. The temperature dropped. As dusk fell rattus rolandius came to inspect my spod spill. A clear and starry sky meant the temperature dropped considerably, and a light mist began to form over the now calm water. My hopes began to fade. I really don't like mist on the water.

Before and after dark I had a few single bleeps to the pellety thing rod. There was some hope. Shortly before dark I had swapped the plastic casters for a fake pop-up pellet, and the single fake grain of corn for my favourite two grain set up. At eleven twenty the yellow perils were picked up and the alarm kept on sounding. Somehow or other I managed to hook precisely nothing.

While spodding a few casts resulted in seeds dropping short and to the right of my target area. This was where I'd positioned the pellety bait, the fake baits being (I hoped) on the main bed of feed. Even if this accidental area of bait hadn't been laid I would have dropped that bait short. Three rigs in a tight area can be overdoing things, and following this tactic has caught for me in the past. I think partly that's because our baiting up is never as accurate as we like to imagine. Having watched others spodding from side on the spod almost always lands at different distances.

It was ten to midnight when the right hand alarm sounded again. No single bleep this time, a rapid series of bleeps. Lo and behold there was a fish on when I picked the rod up. Plainly not very big, and equally plainly a bream. It was a pleasure anglers five pounder that might have weighed three had I put it on the scales, but more likely would have just about struggled past 2lb. I didn't bother with the scales or the camera.

By one the rat had either gone to bed or gone elsewhere. The ducks which had been creating a din around midnight had shut up. I began to doze. I'm not sure when I woke but it was cold, nothing was happening, so I took my boots off and got inside my sleeping bag. The next think I know the sky is beginning to show light. At six I had a recast and switched the plastic pellet back to plastic casters in the hope of an early morning tench.

Gradually the day brightened and warmed causing a heavier mist to rise from the surface of the water. Small fish began topping again. The grebes were thinning them out. The bobbins were still, the alarms silent and my hopes all gone. I started taking photos of the sunrise, the mist, rods and reels and even of one of the swans which had annoyed me the previous evening. When a blog is filled with such shots it tells a simple tale. The fishing was rubbish. Or more likely, the angler was. By half past eight I was packing up and heading for home. Defeated.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Downs and ups

It was another case of nothing caught and nothing worth writing about from my first session in February. The day was a rare fine one between many wet ones. Although conditions appeared good there were no signs of fish life. Yesterday was the sort of February day that makes me feel positive. Dry, almost windless with sunny spells which warm the air. Best of all now the sun doesn't sink out of sight until almost six, and there is light to see by later than that, it means that if the UPS van arrives in good time I can still sneak a few hours fishing in.

The baits were in the water by half past two. I'd already seen a couple of small fish top as I walked to my swim. This wasn't my first choice, but after dropping my gear in my intended spot I had a wander along the bank. The trouble with such a day being that ever swim looked inviting in the sunshine.

For some reason I find sunny days at this time of year good for pike fishing. In summer or winter bright sun seems to be a turn off, but maybe there's a warming effect in February and early March. The frogs which have returned to my pond certainly make their presence known when the sun shines on the pond. Sticking their heads out and croaking until the pond is in shade once more.

It hadn't been a half hour when the right hand margin rod, fishing a lamprey head, was in action. The pike didn't fight, just tried to hold station with it's gob open making it feel bigger than it was. If I had no more action it had been worth getting out of the house.

I worked up a bit of a sweat with the unexpected activity and removed my fleece. It was almost warm enough to bask in the sun without the bunny suit.

That didn't last long and as soon as some clouds drifted across the sun I needed the fleece again. Zipping up the bunny suit was in order too. Disaster. The two way zip has been dodgy for a couple of years. Both zippers had to be pulled right to the top before the zip would close as the lower one was drawn back down. This time the upper zipper came off the rails. Pulling the bottom one up and back down closed the zip, but it wouldn't stay closed. Not reliably. Thankfully it wasn't icy cold.

About an hour after the fish I had a move. Again two baits were placed in the margins and the third one cast to a far bank feature. The sun made a reappearance. At four thirty the marginal headless joey mackerel moved off, but was dropped before I got to the rod. More action in two hours than my previous two trips!

Mallards were courting, buzzards mewing and soaring, a magpie cackled. Winter isn't over just yet but it's on the retreat. There's a rear-guard action forecast for the next week, but that won't deter the daffodils shooting through.

Five o'clock was my next scheduled move time. I picked up the lamprey rod and the bait jiggled through what felt like a sunken branch and went solid for a split second before the branch started to shake its head. At first I thought a big unseasonal eel had picked up the bait but the spotty flank rolling on the surface put that idea out of my head. I never have pike take baits as I wind them in. I have fished with someone who had the knack of making this happen on a regular basis. How, I don't know. This time the scrap was a good one. I kept the rod low in an attempt to stop the pike thrashing on the surface, and struggled to get it in the net.

More chaos ensued as I struggled to untangle a mess of mono which had sprung from the reel before I could get the pike ashore to weigh.

I've had this mono (Asso Bullet) on one reel to see how it performs. It's not caused me any problems. It knots easily and reliably, and despite the episode just mentioned isn't as springy as a lot of nylon lines. Part of the problem I had was the reel being out of gear and turning backwards - throwing line from the spool. After this winter I'll be back on braid on all my pike reels though. The mono is for a water which bans braid, an the Bullet will do the trick there. I might even use it on my eel reels this spring/summer.

With the pike returned and the mess sorted out I started to gather my stuff for the move when the sounder in my pocket bleeped. The mackerel was off again. This time I connected. A lively jack was soon unhooked in the edge. Two rods out of action in five minutes almost tempted me to stick in the swim a while longer. The final spot of the day was calling me. It was the one I'd planned on fishing first, after all.

Another sign that spring is on the way was the evening chorus. There was a joyous cacophony of birdsong as the sun began to lower in the sky. Blackbirds, robins, great and blue tits all staking claim to territory and trying to impress potential mates. I spent a few minutes listening to the last of an invisible song thrush's song as the light eventually faded. It was easy to believe the bird was thinking about its improvisations, subtly modifying phrase after phrase with additional trills and warbles as it repeated them. The song ended as the light went. It had made me feel happy and content. I wasn't bothered that the final move of the day had produced no more fish. It was time for home.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

No fish bay

For the first time in ages it stopped raining yesterday. What's more the temperature rose with a moderate southerly wind. It had to be worth going pike fishing. Even so I still left the umbrella in the quiver. Taking it out would have been tempting fate. I did risk it without my waterproofs though.

Working on the basis of doing things differently I started off in a swim I usually end up in at dusk. One bait in the 'hotspot', one chucked the the site of a lily bed and the third under a drifter float.

It's not often I get a favourable wind for drifting other than over open water so I haven't had much chance to try the float I made a year or two back. It's based on the Colin Dyson design from way back when. The idea being to have a float which I could swap from my bottom end floats when float-legering. In place of the two map pins which the original used as a clip at the top of the float's body I have a line clip from a bobbin. The stem is a bit of broken rod tip, the vane a plastic loyalty card or something covered in dayglo gaffer tape and rod varnish! There's a swivel attached to the end of the carbon stem by some glue-filled shrink tube.

To swap from float-legering to drifting I swap the bottom end float for the drifter, unclip the lead and clip from the top of the trace, and put three very big split shot on the trace wire. For drifting small waters the set-up works well. At least it drifts the bait. I didn't find out how the pike react to it.

Although the drifting exercise proved fishless it did find me a feature I wasn't aware of when the bait ran aground. So the time spent wasn't wasted.

After an hour I made a move to another swim which I often end the day in. Here the wind wasn't conducive to drifting and teh rig was swapped back to a float-leger. A bit of bait twithcing and recasting for a little over an hour and I was off again, uncertain where to go next.

No fish bay seemed as good a place as anywhere. Like a fool I didn't fish the bank where the wind would have been off my back but the opposite side. Although the air temp was high the wind had picked up and its chill factor had too. Everything was looking good for a run or two at dusk, or maybe into dark. But it wasn't to be.

Apart from robins singing and chasing early on and the occasional chinking of a great tit suggesting spring might be approaching there was little in the way of bird activity. Ducks, coots and grebes weren't in evidence on the water. They were either skulking in the reeds or roosting in the snag trees. Little waterfowl activity often seems to go hand in hand with an absence of pike from the landing net. No fish bay lived up to its name and I gave up on the idea of stopping a whole hour into dark watching the starlights on my floats.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Rods for sale

Owing to the fact I have far more rods than I actually need, and that I have at least two sets that would do the same job, I'm parting with my 11ft 3lb Torrix rods. I built them for my short lived carp 'campaign' in 2016, for which they were ideal. As that is well and truly behind me, and because I found them best when casting a lead and small bait, they are surplus to requirements.

As rods I really like them, they are light, well balanced, crisp in action. They were my eel rods last summer but for pike fishing I found them too tippy to use with half baits or heavier, and for playing pike and catfish the same applied. Stick a two to three ounce lead and a small bait like a boilie or a roach head on, though, and they cast like a dream.

The build is as shown. Fuji reel seat with carbon insert, abbreviated Duplon, Alconite rings (30mm butt to 10mm tip, Rover spacing), black thread tipped with khaki at the handle, hook keeper on the left. Butts and tips are numbered with dots (0, 2, 3 for some reason!).

The RRP for a factory build on these rods (Kigan rings, plain reel seat) is £252 each. This build  would be similar. I'm selling these three for £530 including carriage.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Double first

For once both the UPS and Royal Mail drivers arrived earlier than expected. Early enough for me to throw the pike gear and some baits in the car and get to the water with plenty of daylight remaining. Even better was that the day was fairly mild, with no wind-chill. If it stayed that way I could fish an hour or more past sunset. So far so good. My usual plan hit a brick wall when I found the swims I usually end up in during my roamings were all occupied. I'd have to try something different. The area I fished on Christmas Day didn't appeal, and I didn't fancy a long walk either. Off to a swim I have fished a few times with success.

Faced with open water the third bait usually gets whacked well out and sort of twitched back. The other two fish the obvious feature. The margin. Had there been more wind I'd have got my little drifter out for a play, but that wasn't an option. As I was planning on stopping into dark I left the Mk2 night floats on.

Despite the conditions feeling favourable I wasn't happy with where I was, even though I repositioned the baits after twenty minutes. I wasn't all that confident of the rather skinny bluey I had on one rod, nor the lamprey tail on another. I moved early to a swim which had yet to produce a pike for me, as in one banked. The first time I dropped a deadbait in the left hand margin it was taken quickly by a pike which felt a fair bit bigger than the mid double I'd put pack in another swim a few minutes earlier. That's what keeps drawing me back to the swim.

I left the sardine I'd been fishing in open water and cast it to some far bank willows. Then I put a fresh lamprey head in place of the washed out tail section, which I chopped into four pieces and scattered around the head section after I'd swung it into the margin on my right. The bluey was replaced  with a small, but cucumber-smelling, smelt and dropped to my left. The sun came out.

One of the night floats I'd painted black and made a 'sight bob' for it by wrapping dayglo gaffer tape around a dead starlight. This actually showed up quite well at a moderate distance, better still at close range. None of the floats moved.

I sort of had it in mind that if any of the other anglers packed up before four o'clock I'd make a move. In the end I didn't. It seemed like sitting it out in this swim until the usually productive time when the light began to fade might be a good idea. Usually I move out of this swim to a 'banker' for last knockings. Maybe that's why the swim had never produced.

My head torch was out of the rucksack ready for action when the horse needed watering. Cue the sounder box to do what it's supposed to do... Dash to the rods and it's the lamprey head that's away. At the start of the winter I loaded one reel with Asso Bullet mono to see how it behaved. So far my few sessions proved that it cast and spooled okay, but it hadn't been tested with a fish. That was about to change. Turn the reel handle and wind straight into the pike. No problem. Another four or five pounder was coming in easily. Not much of a test for the line. I reached back and grabbed the net, sliding it forwards into the water. Now the jack was under the rod tip but for some reason was refusing to pop to the surface as I bent into it. A lunge and a swirl and I realised it wasn't a jack at all!

The first glimpse I got of the fish suggested a scraper double. A lightly hooked one at that with the lamprey section flapping around from the top treble well outside the pike's mouth. Sink the mesh and give the fish some rice. Job done. A quick look suggested eleven pounds before I wedged the net to retain the fish while I got the unhooking gear and scales sorted.

Lifting the fish ashore in the net it felt a bit heavier than my guestimate. On the mat the hook fell out. In the sling the needle spun round past six o'clock. The fish being lean across the back was what fooled me. Nicely marked and conditioned, with room to fill out before spawning she was lively on her return to the water.

I sorted the usual mess out then sat back to watch the starlights get brighter as the sky got darker. Although the air temperature had dropped markedly at sunset it didn't feel too chilly. I was quite comfortable in my bunny suit. If it hadn't been for hunger I might have stayed longer, but by five fifteen my belly was complaining.

It just goes to show that you shouldn't write a spot off until you've fished it at the most productive times. Common sense really. However, the temptation of fishing a swim which has produced on a regular basis is difficult to stay away from. It can be a bad habit to get into, though. I'd caught a first pike from a 'new' swim and a first on the mono. I'll keep on with the mono until spring, then I might use it for eels. Quite why I'm not sure when braid has so many advantages for predator fishing. I guess I just like experimenting.

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Interviews book

It's not often I sell things on this blog, but I have a 'new' book available. It's a collection of interviews I conducted when James Holgate was editing Pike and Predators and Coarse Angling Today.

Sadly, James is no longer with us, nor are the two magazines which he was responsible for founding.

I like to imagine that he would have approved of the simple and cheap black and white 'zine', 84 A5 page, format I have used as it is reminiscent of the Castabout guides which began his involvement in the world of angling publishing.

Due to popular demand I also produced a limited, paperback, edition for Pikers Pit members which sold out before publication!

To order just follow this link.