Friday, May 06, 2016

I'd forget my head...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Undecided - as usual

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, May 01, 2016


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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Winter returns

Success fuelling motivation I foolishly set out for an evening session on Monday. The wind had swung round more to the north than the west and the temperature dropped considerably since Friday. Deep down I knew I was wasting my time, more so when I decided not to fish a sheltered swim with the wind off my back. Two fleeces and my warterproofs over the top just about kept me warmish. The only good thing about the wind was that it blew the rain clouds away from me. Just as well seeing as I'd left my brolly at home.

As the sun set the skies in the west were quite dramatic, so I spent my time lying on the ground trying to get a shot of a reel silhouetted against them. It was more fun than sitting in my chair shivering!

Apart from one or two roach nothing else popped its head out of the water. The place didn't look like it would throw a fish up. When it got properly dark I packed up and went home wondering why I'd bothered.

I've never been one for using back leads all that much. They've never seemed to make any difference to my catches and I always end up losing them. Recently I've been putting them to more use for fishing at close range and have been catching. This might be coincidence. I might well have caught without them. But being down to my last lead I thought I'd buy some more. That idea went out the window when I saw the price of them! Then I remembered that I had a back lead mould which I'd never used and some clips.

Not having made any leads for a while I was out of practice and had forgotten a few things I needed such as a file for taking the burrs off the cast leads. Nonetheless it only took me about half an hour to knock ten leads up and save a few quid. When I weighed them they ranged from 40g to 50g, but they're only back leads that will get lost so I couldn't care less.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Never look a gift carp in the mouth

The hottest day of the year so far got me thinking there'd be carp on the surface, and I might as well go and fail to catch one on a floater. Initially, when it was flat calm but roasting (the first t-shirt day of 2016) there were no carp to be seen. As soon as a breeze began to ruffle the surface they were cruising about. The wind was coming out of the east, the opposite of what it had been for a few days and the carp were heading down wind. Another guy doing some spotting saw them first, wandered off while I threw mixers in, and came back to say there was a group of fish right down wind.

One common had taken a floater but the rest were ignored so I went and threw some more at the congregation of carp that was easy to find. Again they were largely ignored, apart from one pair of lips braking surface briefly before the fish turned away. I gave up. Not completely. I reckoned that if i could get home, sort out some scran and some gear I might make it back in time to nick the closest swim from any other after-work anglers. So many carp in one area would surely give a carp duffer like me a chance? I made it with minutes, maybe one minute, to spare. With the swim-claiming banksticks in place I took my time sorting out some rigs - rigs no self respecting carper would use - before settling down to fry two sausages in their own fat because I'd forgotten the lard in my haste.

With the sun off the water the carp were no longer visible. Something I've noticed on here before. As soon as the water goes into shadow the carp either move or drop down.  There were a few swirls and splashes, but not all from carp. One or two looked a bit tenchy while others were definitely roachy. Sausage butties eaten, tea drunk, all I had to do was sit and wait.

Despite the new hat keeping the sun out of my eyes and Fred still in hiding in my rucksack I had a finicky looking drop back to the rod fishing where I expected the action to come from. As this was a popped up plastic pellet I wasn't expecting the fish I wound into to feel like a writhing eel. Half way in it began to feel like a small carp before reverting to eelish ways. Eventually it flashed yellowy-green and it's red eye stared at me as I drew it over the net. This time my guess was conservative and the fish nudged over the four pound mark. Back out with the rig, again over a sprinkling of pellets and it was time for more waiting.

There are two pairs of grebes nesting, one has eggs already the other is yet to start laying. Chiffchaff, chaffinch and a distant yellowhammer were among the birds singing their spring songs. With trees starting to green up and the marginal reeds spiking forth spring really did seem to have arrived. The forecast is for it to bugger off again. Maybe the fish would know that and get their heads down.

Although the rigs and baits were not much different to what I had been suing on my tench rods this time they were on the eleven foot three pound Torrixes. So I was carp fishing. Can I sink much lower? My excuse is that it's something to do until the tench put some weight on. Feeble...

Although the wind had felt a lot warmer than it had the other week when it was from the east it didn't take long for it to lose that warmth once the sun began to sink. I was glad of the big brolly I'd brought in case I decided to stop all night. Once I was behind that windbreak the option of stopping on felt much more like a goer. I'd still rethink around midnight. When the pellet bobbin dropped back before flying up at quarter to eleven the decision was made. I'd been getting odd bleeps that weren't wind related now and again suggesting that there were plenty of fish knocking around. This one was certainly no tench. It still didn't take long to bundle into the net. A fat, ugly thing it was too. With a missing pelvic fin ad someone else's hook in it's mouth next to mine. Unappealing as it was it was still a carp by design. Quite a turn up for my books. It didn't feel like much of an achievement though. Carp always disappoint me for some reason.

Out again with the rig and back to lying on the bedchair in my tatty old bunny suit. Apart from the occasional single bleep Roland trying to climb up one of my banksticks my night was mild and undisturbed. Until three or so when it turned decidedly cool and I got in the sleeping bag. Dawn broke red in the east as the full moon headed for the western horizon. Recast time. Damn. Two out of three rigs were tangled. No wonder those bleeps never turned into anything more substantial. Try again then make a brew.

Tea drunk and a carp stuck its head out of the water four feet from the end of my nearest rod. The one I'd cast into oblivion. Then bubbles appeared. it took me a while to wind the rig in and drop it and it's two grains of fake corn (one floating one sinking) in the edge on a slack line with a sprinkling of pellets over the top of it. It was worth a try. Eight o'clock was cut-off time as I had to get home because the gas man cometh. The day was warming up. Not sufficiently to remove the bunny suit, but definitely warming.

Seven twenty and the sounder woke up. I checked the farther two rods which I expected action on but they were inactive. It was the margin rod! A brief scrap, more of a swimming in circles, and a modest common hit the net.Two carp by design. What on earth is going on? The corn was dropped short again, more to get the rod out of the way as I started a slow packing up. That'll do me for carp for a while.  I was almost tempted to put together a short session carp bag, but they still don't do enough for me to want to bother. It's the idea of catching carp that appeals to me. The reality  makes me realise how much nicer it is to catch proper fish. Then again, if another sure fire opportunity arises I might still take it. Like I said, carp fishing is something to do when there are no better offers.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Hat magic

Checking back through this blog I see that my current baseball cap has been covering my bald patch since March 2007. No wonder it was looking tired. It had been looking tired for at least eighteen months if I'm honest. Faded, frayed and falling apart it has character, but it's getting annoying having to trim bits of thread which  dangle before my eyes from the peak. Into the home for retired fishing caps it goes. Obviously it's pristine replacement would be a sure fire blank inducer.

Luckily when I arrived at the lake the wind was cold enough for me to require a woolly hat. One with a proven fish-catching track record. The baits hadn't been out half an hour when the boilie rod was in action. I was fiddling with a replacement rig at the time and when I got to the rod the run stopped. I knew that rig was a poor one for tench. The rig swap was made and out it went with another bag of mixed pellets of uncertain origin.

It wasn't long before the bobbin dropped back on that rod and this time I connected with a small-feeling tench. It fell off half way in. Bugger. A third cast and a third take which stayed attached all the way to the net. Despite being a small male that wasn't much more than two pounds at a guess it was my first tench of the year.

The wind had dropped, the sun was shining and the evening was warming up. Time for a hat swap and on with the new cap. The alarms stayed silent as I watched first a flock of sand martins, then one of swallows, feeding on high. I counted seven great crested grebes, three pairs and a singleton, on the lake. The midges were far too numerous to count, no doubt providing good feeding for the hirundines and the bats which appeared as darkness drew in. With the sun setting so the air chilled and the woolly hat was dug out again. This was the signal for another take to the boilie rod. Who says lucky hats don't work?

A slightly more feisty fish, a little bigger I guessed the female to weigh around four pounds and used the sling and scales to check. I had overestimated by half a pound. The length was there but she was a skinny fish. Looking at the fish in the net I could easily imagine a non-tench angler guessing a pound or even two more than I had. Carp are a different build to tench, rounder in cross section if you will, and so weigh heavier for a similar length. Hardly surprising so many seven and eight pounders get caught by carp anglers from waters where tench anglers struggle to catch anything close to those weights.

Guessing weights accurately comes with familiarity of weighing fish of a particular species. That's why I never decry newcomers to pike fishing weighing the jacks they catch. Some hardened pikers seem to make a big thing out of never weighing anything less than ten or twenty pounds, depending how much they want to impress their acolytes. Unless they have weighed fish less than those weights in the past, how can they judge when a pike is worth their while getting the sling wet for? Even when you have the necessary experience an unusually fat or thin fish will come along and throw you one way or the other.

I fished on into dark for nothing more than two or three liners, only one to a bait that wasn't the boilie. I much prefer catching tench using tench tactics, but if they want boilies I'll give them to 'em. I just hope the pesky carp keep away from my baits.

One plus point to take away from this short session was that the cheapo flat leads I'd bought work a treat in PVA bags. They also seem to plane up on the retrieve, an added bonus. Considering I bought them originally for piking I'm well chuffed.