Friday, January 13, 2017

Blatant self-promotion

It must have been the weather that tempted me back to the lake last week. That and some free time. Despite the conditions, which were mild before a forecast freeze, I failed yet again. Not even a missed take on the retrieve in any of the three swims I tried. Including the banker swim. I did see a low double caught by the other angler, so I guess I was just putting my baits in the wrong places., As usual. The promised frost began to arrive as I was packing up. Just a light coating of the sparkly stuff on the rod sling and unhooking mat.

I keep persevering with the 12000OC Baitrunner loaded with mono on one rod. I really don't know why! Side by side with a 6000OC it does look considerably larger. If I was fishing larger stillwaters I think the 12000 might be my pike reel of choice.

The following day I was out with my camera until late afternoon and decided to drive by the lake on my way home to see if anyone was fishing. The car park was deserted despite it being a dry and sunny day. When I saw the lake I realised why. It had gone solid over night. I'd missed nowt.

Over the Christmas/New Year holiday Neville Fickling interviewed me for Pike and Predators.I quite enjoyed answering his questions, which were not the usual sort that get asked in fishing interviews. I rambled on about a few 'off topic' subjects. The interview is in the February issue which is out now. My silly side was pleased to get one of my poultry show photographs printed in the mag!

Neville wrote a nice 'predatorial' about the history of the PAC as it enters its 40th anniversary year. It's quite remarkable to look back at how pike fishing has changed in that time. Not so much the methods, which have evolved little, but the attitudes towards pike and the access to fishing where previously pike were treated as vermin. And pretty much all down to the efforts of those who got the Pike Society rolling in the first place and those who continued the work with the PAC phoenix which rose from its ashes. Things are much better now than they were in the 'good old days', but there are still threats to pike stocks which need countering, and I fear there always will be. Which is why any angler pike angler who isn't a PAC member ought to give it strong consideration.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Time for a break?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 25, 2016


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 05, 2016

Icy margins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The pattern continues

It's carried on being a case of all work and no play. With not as much work getting done as I'd like thanks to the continuing non-arrival of blanks and fittings. The law of sod dictates that the stuff I need most pressingly is the stuff which fails to arrive. You'd imagine that item A ordered before item B would arrive first. Not in the world of fishing tackle. Thankfully the weather has turned unsettled so slaving away at the work I can get on with hasn't been too frustrating. but when Tuesday turned mild, dry and sunny I headed out with the pike rods.

This time I ditched one of my set ups that I was playing around with and replaced it in the quiver with the tried and trusted float leger rig on a P-5. After clearing out the bait drawers in my freezer I discovered that I wasn't as well stocked with fresh baits as I'd thought. I still had enough to allow for a variety to be used, lamprey, herring and bluey as it turned out. I'll have to top up soon though.

Conditions seemed pretty reasonable despite the sunshine, but the first swim I tried failed to produce in the hour I fished it, moving baits around too. The second swim gave me access to a few decent spots and the baits were duly scattered around them. As there was scope for recasting to different areas I decided to stick it until dark in the swim.

With less than an hour to go a recently recast bait, the lamprey head, was picked up and a very twitchy take ensued. This was to the 11ft 3lb Torrix. Not the most powerful rod in the world. Even so it failed to take on a bend of any description when I connected with the bait nibbler. The reason was obvious when a pike of about one pound came to the surface. With just one point of the end treble right at the tip of its snout I managed to shake the fish off in the edge! I hoped that was the start of something of a feeding spell. I should have known better. When the micro-pike are out and about it usually means the big ones are lying low. There ended the session.

Rod fittings that I use on a regular basis are the ones that are scarce, which means that anything I don't use many of turn up without any problem. Among them recently have been an Alps reel seat. I understand that they look nice, but for someone such as me who likes to use practical fishing rods they are like stepping back 30 years.



Fuji's composite reel seats were hailed as a great leap forward when they were introduced, among other reasons for being lighter than metal seats, and also for being warmer to the touch in cold weather. Win win, as the saying goes.

I'll give the Alps seats one thing. It's fun spinning the locking nuts up and down the threads. Kind of like playing with an executive toy!

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Plodding slowly along

Since the clocks went back getting value for money on a day ticket water means getting there before lunch if you're a cheapskate like me. Certainly before noon to get a decent session in. That's why, on the one day I've had any free afternoon time,  I went piking.

The plan was as cunning as usual. fish where I'd had the dropped runs last time out. With just three hours or so available I opted to break my golden rule of moving every hour, and stick it out in one spot.

Despite the failures of last time I stuck with the same rods and reels, and fishing off the baitrunner. It was one of those afternoons when the usually prolific bird life on the water was notable for it's absence. Just a couple of moorhens spotted hugging the reeds and three noisy water rails heard. No ducks, not a coot to be seen. The kingfisher was about but noisily agitated flying from high perch to high perch without resting anywhere for long. I wasn't confident of any pike action.

It was about four when the starlings appeared. Maybe because I was in their roost this time, or maybe not, they circled and swirled in slightly greater numbers than previously before sliding down into the reeds like the sand pouring in an hourglass.

 The light was fading fast and it was also growing decidedly chilly. The morning before I woke to teh first frost of winter and temperatures were set to stay low.

Baits had been repositioned an hour before knocking-off time. When that came I got up off my chair and immediately heard the sounder bleep a couple or three times. Something had picked up the bait on the rod I'm trying out. When I got to it there was no line being taken, but it felt slack. I wound down and there was certainly something there. A four pound test curve isn't my first choice for fishing at close to medium range, but it had to be done. The rod took on a slight bend in the tip section!

It wasnt a big fish, not even making nine pounds when I weighed the skinny thing, but after swimming over the net of its own accord, it swam back out again before I could lift the frame. It didn't get a second chance though. That was my lot and with my nose dripping from the cold I walked back to the car.

When I can''t get out fishing, despite itching to, I get GAS like a lot of other anglers. Shopping isn't a sensible therapy for cabin fever, but it's unavoidable in the internet age when 'researching' products is so simple. Even with all the information out there I still couldn't manage to find any reliable comparisons of the size of the three largest OC Baitrunners. Asking on The Pikers Pit I came to the conclusion that the 6000OC and 8000OC are pretty much the same reel apart from the 8000 having a deeper spool. Give or take a few millimetres on the spool diameter. Wanting (rather than needing, in all likelihood) a bigger baitrunner than the 6000OC which isn't the XT-A LC medium I took a chance on ordering just one 12000OC. I'd read some comments that made it sound massive and heavy.

The reel arrived at my friendly tackle dealer on Friday. With Saturday poultry day I wouldn't get a chance to use it, but I did get it spooled up with 20lb mono. Then I went to put it on the prototype rod. When I threw the rod together I put a locking collar on the reel seat. It seemed like it might be a nice feature to have on a rod that I intend to use for catfish next year. The lock nut certainly makes the reel secure. However, it also made it impossible to back the rear hood off far enough to get the foot of the 12000OC in! I had to screw the nut over the rear Duplon. A good job I'd fitted a very slim one.

Eventually the reel was in place, the line threaded trhough the rings and the rig tied on. Out in teh garden and hook the end treble in my rod testing loop in the side door of the garage. All seems to balance nicely and the clutch is just as good as I expected. One thing I do like is that the anti-reverse lever is bigger and more prominent than on the XTA. Although I use the drag more than I used to these days, and for catfish I'll not be backwinding (been there and rapped my knuckles) I do like to knock the anti-reverse off when netting fish. On the XTAs that's been a fiddle to do.

I'd been a little concerned that the 12000OC might have a stupidly large handle knob. Luckily it didn't. The grip is the same style as on the 6000 and the XTA - just considerably larger. Perfect.

The spool diameter is very similar to that of the medium XTA. donning my anorak and getting the callipers out I measured the back of those two spools at 67mm each, the 12000 is the same at the front while the XTA is narrower at 63mm. Where they differ is in the length, the 12000 being just 24.5mm with the XTA being 32.5mm. Given the much nicer line lay on the XTA combined with the spool length that should be the better casting reel. In practice I doubt it will affect me. Not when casting livebaits at any rate.

L to R - 6000OC, 12000OC, XTA LC medium

I haven't compared the weights of the reels because the 12000OC doesn't' feel unduly heavy. Not when it's going to be sitting on a rod rest most of the time. What it does feel is more robust than the XTA, in the same way the 6000OC feels more robust than my Aero Baitrunners. The OCs are proper predator reels while the XTA and Aeros are OK for carping - you know, for not catching much and being mollycoddled!

R to L - 6000OC, 12000OC, XTA LC medium
The above is not a review, more a comparison and first thoughts. As my 6000OCs have been a great acquisition I'm fairly confident that the 12000OC (and it's two pals I have on order) will prove equally reliable.

Having said all this I will admit to liking the XTAs. Just as I like the 11ft 3lb Torrixes they've been on all summer. They make a great combination. Having given up chasing carp I'm not sure what to do with them now. The rods are good for eeling (although I like using ten footers for short session) but I'd rather have smaller reels on them for that. One might become a marker reel and the other two sold on. I do know that it had been a toss up between OCs and XTAs earlier in the year and the XTAs won because I knew how big they were. Wish I'd gone for the 12000s now. D'oh!