Sunday, May 17, 2015

Pest control

Full of tenchy enthusiasm I set my alarm clock on Tuesday night so I could make an early start on what promised to be a hot spring day. It goes without saying that half an hour after I'd switched the alarm off I was still lying in bed. After a drive through the dawn I arrived at the lake with enough light to go fish spotting. So that was what I did. Not that I spotted any fish. Not tench at any rate. The only signs were small fish dimpling and rolling in the mirror calm surface.

It felt good to be up and around before the hum of traffic competed with the sedge warblers and whitehroats. That summery smell was in the air too. Despite seeing no signs of tench - which I rarely do on this water - I was happy enough in my choice of swim.

One bait to the edge of some pads to my right, one in open water straight in front and the third down the left hand margin. Continuing my 'carp' fishing approach I had fake corn on one and pellets on the other (if there wasn't a pointless boilie ban I'd be using Tuttis, but there is, so I'm not). For a change I was trying a Spicy Sausage pellet-O on the margin rod. In the vain hope that bream might not like the taste but tench will.

I'd not been fishing more than fifteen minutes when the left hand rod began twitching, the bobbin not moving. It sure looked like a bite. A bream bite. I picked the rod up and was surprised to connect with a fish that was almost in front of me. Judging by the feel through the line the fish must have taken the rig through weed as it cam towards me. Hence the lack of a drop-back as the line stayed tight. The fish was no bream either.

The scrap was good one. The fish hugged the bottom, zig-zagging around the swim trying to make for the pads without going on a run. I was convinced that it was a good tench. A really good tench. I just couldn't get it up on the surface. A big boil came up one time when I tried. I wasn't taking it easy on teh fish, but I was being careful. If that makes sense. Then it rolled. Tench don't have big golden scales. The gloves came off and the nuisance fish was skimmed into the net. It didn't even get weighed. A bit tatty with a split dorsal, some mouth damage and a few missing scales.

With that pest turning up so early I thought there might still be a chance of a tench or two after the disturbance. More mixed pellets were cattied out over the close range baits. The open water rig got recast further out with its accompanying bag. I watched the mist rolling over the water as the sun slowly rose to burn it away.

Warblers zipped hither and thither, a great tit foraged low down in the brambles, an orange tip flitted about. Even  the swans and Canada geese avoided my lines. Small fish continued to dimple and roll.  All was right with the world. Apart from the lack of tench.

My hopes began to fade when bubbles appeared close in to my right. Had they been the fizzy bubbles of tench I'd have moved one bait on top of them, but they were the bubbly bubbles of carp. With them in the area my hopes began to fade. Nontheless, as is always the case with my early morning sessions I fished on for longer than planned. By the time I'd called at the pasty shop on my way home it was near enough lunch time.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Of mice and rats

Bank Holiday Mondays are usually off my list of fishing days, but when the last one was warm and sunny I couldn't resist trying for some evening tench. My first choice swim was occupied but number two was free. The usual rigs and baits went out with the usual bags of pellets followed by sprinklings of pellets over the baits as they were all being fished close in. Around seven, as the cooling wind began to drop, fish started to roll and bubble. The new bobbins remained motionless. So I took more photos of them to relieve the boredom!

Whitethroats were active in the hawthorn, singing and flitting about. A song thrush perched on high and sang it's little heart out. A swan drifted gracefully by and picked up one of my baits. I wound that one in and whacked it out to deeper water.

Pacing around behind my swim I found the remains of a rat. The decaying corpse didn't stop it's relatives from scurrying around behind me when the sun had set. A few minutes before packing up time there were a couple of bleeps to the long chuck rod. Most likely liners. I was glad that the growing cloud cover was keeping the evening warm - because I'd left my fleece at home.It was encouraging to drive home in the dark with the thermometer reading still in double figures, even if the chippy was closed when I past by.

Work did its usual trick of keeping me occupied through the week. Which wasn't a problem as the rain had returned. Thursday was as sunny as it had been forecast to be but I didn't rush to get the rods out. The last few sessions hadn't seen much fish activity until seven so I felt there was little reason to rush.

Two of the rigs were simply retied to ensure reliable knots and cast out inside their pellet bags. The other rig got changed a little. I had been wondering if a longer hooklink might be worth a try and had tied one up in advance. My thinking being that four inch hooklinks might be burying the baits in the bottom weed. That rig got a different bait attached and was lobbed out to a nice looking gap in the pads to my left. The others were out in open water and near some pads on the right.

Almost as soon as I'd sat down the right hand bobbin dropped a fraction then remained still. Twenty minutes before seven it dropped again, then jiggled and rose before falling back once more. The result was a be-tuberculed bream around the three pound mark.

It was twenty past eight before the middle bobbin dropped slightly. This open water fish proved to be a hybrid a pound or so smaller than the previous two this season. Despite the surface going calm as the light faded and the wind dropped very little was showing in the way of fish. A bream had rolled in front of me but the only other fish topping were small roachy things. Bubbles were notable for their absence. Strange considering the conditions as the wind had been blowing not the bank I was fishing from all day. I was glad to have remembered my fleece this time because I needed it. Sure enough the car's thermometer was reading in single figures on the way home.

The tench, which are what I'm trying to catch, are continuing to play hard to get.I've heard of one or two being caught, and more being lost, but they're keeping well away from me. Maybe they'll wake up next week if the temperature rises as forecast.

Back at the work bench I've been dealing with the effects of mice on rod handles. I had a call from someone who had had mice nesting in his rod bag during the winter, making their nest from chewed up cork and Duplon - which must have provided fine insulation for them! In the tradition of the before and after photos you see of slimmers I photographed the ravaged handles in an unflattering way, and made a better attampt for the after pic...

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Double Whammy

Even before I left home I knew I was on a hiding to nothing. New tackle is a sure-fire curse on fish catching, and nothing more jinxing than new bobbins. I'll admit to being a tackle tart when it comes to bobbins, after all they are something I spend a lot of time looking at in the vain hope they'll actually move. Although the Fox Black Label bobbins I had been using for a while now were perfectly functional - after I'd fitted the ball type clips - I wasn't keen on them being red. Isotopes were dimmed by them, but the only alternative to make them glow brighter was green. even worse than red!

This year Fox have introduced orange heads (apparently to fit with their corporate branding...), so I had to have some. Trouble is the standard size heads aren't available separately. That meant buying three complete indicators complete with hockey-sticks and, in order to get the right clips, Dacron cords. In a fit of madness I ordered up three small heads (which are available individually), three chains and three tiny isotopes. The idea being to have standard heads on my pod and the small ones on my sticks as the bobbins on my sticks don't have the isotopes inside them and they are all now smashed.

Daft as it sounds, and totally illogical, having a nice looking set up can sometimes inspire confidence. Content with my new look indicators the rigs went out to good looking spots. extra pellets were fired out over the two close range baits and I sat back sans-fleece in the evening sunshine.

Another guaranteed killer of sport is an east wind. Which was precisely what was blowing across the water. New gear and an easterly didn't exactly fill me with hope. So I pottered about taking photographs of my tarty set up.

Cook and Ali were making progress in Barbados after the usual batting disasters. A few bubbles were even appearing within range of a couple of my baits - on the right length but not the right line. My hopes were rising. As the sun lowered and the light changed I took more photos. Shooting into the light can make for attractive pictures. You can even use 'mistakes' like flare from a dusty lens to your advantage.

There was no movement on the new bobbins, no sound from the Delks, not even when the line lifted and tightened on the long-chuck middle rod. I left it alone expecting a liner, but the tightening and lifting carried on. When I picked the rod up there was a weight to be felt, a weight that was moving. On the way back there was no fight, just that weight as the fish came in easily kiting slightly to my left and the pads. One head shake and it kept on coming. Bream. I turned it away from the pads and towards the waiting net when the line went slack and I wound in a weed covered rig. Eh? I fear that ailing to change the rig to one with a larger hook to match the larger bait than last time out had been the cause of my downfall. I'd thrown my wicket away through over-confidence like Joe Root.

After recasting with a fresh bag of pellets on that rod the margin rod got cast a little further out to where bubbles had been rising. As the sun got lower and lower I wrapped up with my scarf, fleece, mittens and woolly hat. Evening swallows flew over the lake, followed by evening bats. Something or other had a couple of tugs at the close range fake corn. Probably small roach grazing over the pellets I'd scattered around the bait. That was that. It almost got me fired up for an early start today. But didn't.

It's May and the blackthorn is still in bloom with the hawthorn just budding. Everything feels a week or two later than this time last year. I definitely won't be getting the eel rods out until well into June this time round. So it looks like more not-tenching for the next few sessions when I can muster my rapidly dwindling enthusiasm.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Rod news

I could write about another failure of a tench session when fishing carp style with bags of pellets produced another hybrid (which looked very much like the one I caught last Thursday...) but there wouldn't be much to write about apart from hearing and seeing my first whitethroat of the year.

I was forced on to the pod because I was a battery short in my cheap alarms and it's just a lot easier to set up in some of the swims. I might get myself three more of the quick release plates for the Delks to put on my non-piking banksticks. Anyway, the 11ft 2lb Torrixes continue to satisfy my needs. Maybe not quite what I'd like but the best 11ft option I've found. They match up well with the 4000D Baitrunners.

Talking of Torrix blanks, I'm not sure if the 12ft 1.25lb has been altered, but I've got a pair on the go for a customer at the moment that feel a whole lot nicer than the one I built for myself and quickly sold on. These blanks are quite like a longer version of the 11ft Chimera Avons I love to bits. They should make a nice 'specimen float' rod. So much so I might get one for myself!

Recent builds have included a set of three P-5s and an Axiom in brown, which combined with copper tipped chestnut whippings made for a really nice look.

My latest build is (the shame of it) a spod rod with Hamster Hoops. Harrison's bog standard 5lb spod rod has a bit of a reputation as a casting machine. I built myself one but found it far too stiff for the small spods I was using and the short ranges I was fishing at. If you need to chuck big spods a long way but don't want to pay silly prices it's the one to go for.

I suppose the spod rod could be used for catfishing, but given that one impatient customer couldn't wait for winter to give his X-1s an outing and took them catting there's probably no need for anything that beasty. Six fish to 48lb gave the X-1s a bit of a work-out, but didn't find them wanting when pulling fish away from snags by all accounts. Still on the subject of using rods for species they weren't intended for I'm informed that the Duellist 2 is ideal for float fishing livebaits for bass from a boat. At least my customers can catch fish even if I can't!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Rats, bats and bags

With nothing caught there's been nothing to write about. I tried for the roach again and failed miserably on a warm and sunny afternoon and evening session. I was on the verge of packing up early when a roach actually rolled over my bait tempting me stop on until it was cold and going dark. I did spot some carp though, which looked like they'd be easy to catch. Of course, when I returned a couple of days later they had done a disappearing act, but hoping that pretending to fish for carp I might catch a tench I gave it a go. And failed miserably on all counts. One more blank and it would be three strikes and out.

Luckily the first test in the West Indies distracted me and I didn't feel the urge to wet a line until yesterday afternoon, when with no work to be getting on with until more blanks arrived, and the sun shining again, I took the same 'carp' gear and bait for another outing because I was too lazy to swap the two rods for my three tench rods in the quiver. Not to mention that I'd only replaced two of the batteries in my three cheap and cheerful alarms...

I had an early tea and timed my getaway to coincide with the lunch break so as to miss none of the cricket. There were two grains of popped up fake corn over a sprinkling of pellets in the margin, and a 12mm Pellet-O in a bag of pellets on a long chuck by five thirty. Just in time for the start of the afternoon session at the test. I picked up the new Sonubaits catalogue/magazine the other day and it looks like the 12mm Pellet-Os have been dropped. Bloody typical.

Although the air temperature was a reasonable 12 the wind had a hint of north in it. Despite picking a swim that wasn't facing into the wind I was still getting chilled by it. I should have wrapped up warmer. The birds were unphased and a blackbird and a chaffinch were taking turns singing for one particular high hawthorn branch. I heard the inevitable chiffchaff and saw a number of groups of swallows passing over heading north. Great crested grebes were behaving in a way I've not witnessed before. Bow waving at speed like fast moving carp. They were also chasing each other about. I think one pair was nest building and another bird was intruding. With the first blacthorn blossoms starting to show I was hoping the tench would too.

These days I'm a far more impatient angler than I used to be. If nothing has happened after half an hour I start to get twitchy. After an hour's inactivity I start to get bored. I reckon that's why I am far more mobile in my pike fishing these days than I used to be.But the plan was to leave both baits out until they got picked up.

It was just gone seven when I saw the left hand, distance, bobbin drop back an inch then rise again. I was by the rod as the bobbin dropped like as stone and lifted into something that took a bit of line against the clutch. The damned clutch was too slack! After a couple of thumps whatever it was came in easily just like that tench the other week. This fish didn't wake up when it saw the net. Bream rarely do. Still, it was a start and I wasn't quite so bored.

A fresh bait'n'bag went out and I settled into listening to the cricket, watching the wildlife and scanning the water for signs of fish. Earlier I'd seen my first rat of the year, as dusk fell I spotted my first bats. Summer is on its way! I can never tell the difference between willow warblers and chiffchaffs unless I hear them sing. One or the other flitted past me and paused briefly in a bankside bush. The wind dropped a little after swinging more to the north, which didn't do much to warm me. Small fish had been topping all over the place in ones and twos from about six, and carried on until dark. No bubbles were seen and no bigger fish rolling. I started to get bored again...

It was half-eight when the bobbin on the margin rod lifted as the line tightened, dropped back, lifted and held, then sort of jiggled. Something had hooked itself. In the fading light it looked like a bream half the size of the first fish. In the net it looked more like a roach/bream hybrid. It was a plumpster whatever it was.

I cleaned the weed off the plastic baits and swung the rig back out for the last half hour. By nine I had had enough. Thoughts of tench were starting to buzz in my head. Even a cunning plan was starting to form. Trouble is there might be another eely distraction on the horizon. What I need to do is get organised.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Moving with the times

A few weeks ago my ancient mobile phone packed up on me and I was forced to have a 'smart' phone. That meant I an now able to 'enjoy' the delights of phoneography. I'm sure that more expensive phones are better as cameras, but one thing is for sure, in decent light even my simple 6 megapixie can make pictures which are good enough for blogging. If good enough means in focus and correctly exposed. In deference to the shape of screens these days I took most of my pictures in the native 16:9 aspect ratio. Yesterday I took the opportunity of a free and sunny afternoon to chase some roach at Sheep Lake. While I was there I played around with the phone and my other cameras. See if you can tell what kind of device made them!

After videoing the frogs in my pond I thought I'd also try my hand at what seems to be taking over fishing blogging for people who can't write - video. Way back I made a few clips with my old cameras when fishing, but things really have moved on in just as few years. Even compacts can produce high quality results. I don't own, and have no plans to buy, a GoPro with it's give-away neo-fisheye lens that gives every video shot with one the same look. Fine for point-of-view footage, but it becomes tedious when used for everything.

Not having had the roach rods out since this time last year it had been a bit of a struggle to find what I required. The rods were still rigged up but the feeders had gone AWOL. After a bit of rummaging around I scraped together enough to  see me through a session. I even threw in an in-line cage feeder I'd tried once before. That proved to be a good move as when I started to tackle up I found one of the power gum rigs was goosed.

Two rods fished open end feeders filled with crumb and pellet mix with maggots on the size 20 hooks - a single maggot on one, two on the other. These were cast out to a marked spot. The third rod had the in-line feeder, and a small piece of fake corn as bait. This was chucked as far as I could get it and left to its own devices.

The afternoon was warm with little wind. Most pleasant to sit back and soak up some sun between re-filling feeders and recasting. A nice relaxing way to spend some time after the frantic (by my standards!) rod building of the last month.

When the sounder started to bleep I was amazed to see the spool spin briefly on the corn rod before the bobbin dropped back. A liner? I wound the rig in to find the stop above the feeder had slipped. A take. Back out went the rig.

The light breeze, only just enough to ruffle the water, swung through 180 degrees. A dabchick cruised round a bush and crash-dived when it spotted me. Canada geese made a racket. Around four thirty the temperature started to drop. I'd worked up a sweat walking to the swim and had removed my fleece from under the bunny suit before tackling up. It was warm but not warm enough for me to manage without the suit. I was glad to put the fleece back on and replace my baseball cap with the woolly one. Not to mention put on my fleece mitts.

It was ten past five when the sounder warbled again. This time the same spool was spinning steadily. I lifted the rod and felt a fish. Not knowing what to expect I knocked the anti-reverse off just in case it was something verminous. It didn't seem to be. In fact it felt like a roach. No runs just a slowly zig-zagging path back towards me with a few gentle head-shakes. IT felt like a decent roach too. Under the rod tip I had to steer it away from the other two lines to prevent an almighty mess. Been there. Don't want to do that again. When the fish popped up it had a red eye. It's scales weren't large and silvery though. They were tiny and olive green. As soon as the fish saw me it started to fight like a tench should!

Despite waking up it slid into the landing net at the first attempt. Far from a big tench, maybe a couple of pounds (or five to someone who never weighs tench...) at least it had saved a blank. But was it telling me something? Should I get the tench rods out?

When the light began to fade my hopes of a roach or two rose. It was not to be. The maggot bobbins didn't so much as flicker. My dilemma now is whether to have another roach session (I've bought some more feeders in case) or to break out the tench rods. Decisions, decisions.

Below is my cobbled together video footage. Watch and be bored to tears! The trouble with video is that to do it well you need to shoot a lot of footage, from different viewpoints simultaneously. You also realise you need things like external microphones to improve the sound quality. Then a few filters might come in handy and before you know it you're going fishing in order to make videos!