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!