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 teh 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!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Hard at it

The good thing about being self-employed is that I can be masochistic listening to England playing cricket in Australia at thee in the morning without having to think about getting up and going to work. The bad thing is that when I have a lot of work I can't put it off. Which means that I have had my nose (almost literally) to the grindstone since the last blog entry and am still trying to catch up with new builds, repairs and refurbs.

All this means that I missed the end of the river season without making a trip to the local drains for some back end piking. Perhaps the tench will be bubbling by the time I can manage a fishing session. Although that usually means they are uncatchable!

Back at the pond the frogs have spawned and are now dispersing. Time to keep checking the development of the tadpoles, which should be fairly safe from avian predators with all the weed to hide in. Fingers crossed.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Catch up time

I knew I was going to get busy, so a week last Thursday I fled to the waterside after lunch. It was a lovely pre-spring day of sunshine with a wind to ruffle the surface. A bit bright for pike until dusk, but that didn't stop me trying a few swims before settling into the one I'd caught from on the previous session for the last two hours.

It was around five when a few small fish started to show, leaping in the wavelets. Pike action was anticipated because such activity had preceded the run last time out. Sure enough at ten past the middle float, with a legered bluey tail on the hooks below, dipped then set off on a steady run. I picked the rod up, wound the reel handle to disengage the baitrunner, felt the weight of a fish and struck. All too briefly the fish pulled back before the bait came free. The hooks had shifted in the bait but it wasn't badly mauled. With the upper hook repositioned securely enough for another cast back out went the bait. Not quite to the same spot, but close enough. Thinking I'd probably blown my chances I sat back in the low chair and sulked.

Twenty minutes later there was a single bleep from the sounder in my fleece pocket. The floats didn't seem to have moved. Odd strong gusts had been causing single bleeps from time to time. One of the few drawbacks to braid is that it is more easily blown about than mono. Two more bleeps and a scan of the floats showed that the middle one was moving just as the sounder began a continuous wail. This run seemed more positive and my strike was met with a sustained resistance.

Just like the fish from the last session all there was was a weight that could have been a middling fish or something better. As I drew the pike closer I felt that sensation of the line plucking over a fin, or maybe a hook slipping. And again. If there was a light hook hold I wanted the fish in the net quickly. A rod length out there was a big boil on the surface as the pike changed direction and came towards me from the left. Then I got her head up which resulted in an open-mouthed head shake with flared gills. Fearing a loose hold for the hooks I hustled the fish into the net and breathed a sigh of relief. It looked a longer fish than I'd had all winter, and chunky round the shoulders.

Leaving the net staked in the edge I got the scales and sling readied before lifting what felt like a respectable weight ashore. That was the cue for a mad twisting and writhing session from the pike. After the untangling session I found the hooks were free and my fears might well have been grounded. Lifting the sling I suspected that I wasn't going to quite manage a twenty. So it was. far from unhappy I sacked the fish and set up the camera for a few self-takes. Before getting the sack out of the margin I wound the other two rods in. There was a chance of another run, but I couldn't face the mayhem that would cause! Two shots of each side and back she went, swimming away strongly. By now it was almost dark and I tidied the swim by the light of my Petzl.

The following day a load of blanks and fittings arrived and I've been catching up with work. Conditions have been ideal for more pike sessions but I haven't managed sufficient free time to make the effort. I haven't even felt like writing anything for the blog until this lull in proceedings over a week later.

Now I'm almost on top of things it's got more springlike still and the pike might well be thinking of spawning, like the frogs in my pond have. Bang on cue the first spawn appeared today, previous years seeing it arrive on the 7th, with last year being early on the 4th. Yesterday while waiting for some glue to dry I went and photographically pestered the frogs. Today a head count from a photo revealed at least 83 of the croaking amphibians were in residence!

I also played around shooting some video footage. Video is something I'm sure I could enjoy making. If only it wasn't so demanding of gadgets, and expensive gadgets at that, to get great results. A tripod or some other means of stable support makes a big difference. I used a Gorrillapod for most of the video and the difference is marked between that and the hand-held stuff. The wind noise from the cameras' built in mics is annoying, so an external mic with a dead cat would be required to improve that. Then there's the matter of pans and zooms to make things more interesting and it's all outlay that makes still photography look cheap! Anyway, this is the result - edited quickly using primitive software.

With the warming trend expected to continue I might hang up the pike rods for this season and break out the roach rods for a couple of sessions before attacking the tench with carp tactics. Well, tench tactics didn't work last spring so I've nothing to lose. I just hope that I can avoid catching carp.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

All is right with the world

At long last I'm getting on top of work, and despite the fact I should really have spent the afternoon doing mundane things like getting some cash out of the bank and replenishing my dwindling food larder I dug some bait out of the freezer and threw the rods in the car. I'd checked the weather forecast and rain wasn't due until eight. Yippee! I could leave the brolly at home.

Not having any info to go on there were two choices of where to fish. I took the lazy option and fished near the car, setting up with the wind in my face  made it feel half an overcoat cooler than it was behind shelter. Not that it was cold, by any means.

There were two bits of lamprey and a section of bluey that were left over from my last session in the bait bag, so they went on the hooks. Two close in and one further out. It wasn't long before I was wishing I'd bought some maggots yesterday and gone roach fishing. I wasn't feeling at all confident. So uninspired was I that I thought up a way to pop a bait up and even did it to relieve the tedium of watching floats doing nothing but rock in the wind.

After an hour and a half I packed everything away and went as far from the car as I could. I still managed to pick a swim with the wind in my face, but it felt a bit more like it. The lamprey head was still oozing blood so that got dropped in the right hand margin. The bluey section had got squashed when I inadvertently stood on it, and the other bit of lamprey was all washed out so I had to delve into the unopened bait packs. Mixed deadbait packs are often thought of as being aimed at 'noddy' pikers, but they sometimes contain decent baits. The pack I opened in search of a joey to decapitate also had a nice big herring tail in it. I lobbed the herring tail out to my left, not too far but away from the margin, and the macky got the big heave ho.

I'd not been settled down for long when there was a noisy swirl under the rod tops. It sounded like a pike striking (I was rooting in my bag at the time) but it could easily have been a grebe or even a cormorant, although nothing surfaced that I noticed.

At least one predator was in action. the first inkling I had was when I heard a redwing and then saw it flying determinedly followed by a sparrowhawk which gave up the chase and veered off over the reeds. A bleep from one of the Delks made me look up to see the left hand, herring, float bob, dip and then slide away accompanied by the musical trilling of the sounder. Bloody hell!

I untangled the landing net from a fallen branch then picked the rod up, engaged the reel and struck in one smooth movement. There was a dead weight on the end of the line. This was either a big fish swimming slowly towards me or a teenager getting dragged in. I'd know which it was to be when it was directly in front of me. If it carried on going to the right it would be a big fish, if it rode to the surface it'd be a teenager. It didn't keep on going. It didn't do much. I'm not sure it wagged its tail once, and made a half-hearted wallow once over the net.

It didn't look like it would quite make the teens as it rested in the net while I readied the scales and stuff. Lifting the fish ashore, however, it had that chesty look that pike often get around this pre-spawn time of year and a chunky build. A couple of ounces over fourteen and  a half made up for my previous blanks.

The herring tail had been shaken free of the hooks during the 'fight', so I had to look for another bait. In the mixed pack there was what looked like a tiny herring. I put that on the hooks and lobbed it out. My confidence was boosted and with over an hour of daylight remaining I was sure of another chance.

Then I felt the rain. Surely it wasn't eight already? It was only a few spots, and the sky looked clearer in the direction the wind was blowing out of. I still put my jacket on, although there wasn't really much need but it kept the wind chill down anyway. As the cloud broke there was a brief, but lovely, sunset. People love photographing sunsets, and I'm no exception, but I don't think photographs do them justice. I keep trying though.

I was still sure that one of the floats would move before the last of the light had gone. As all too often is the case, my certainty was misplaced. With the rain blown over and the wind dropping  I shoved my jacket back in the rucky and traipsed back to the car in a better frame of mind than I'd left it. I might not have got much fishing done so far this year, but I've had a fix now and feel more content with my lot.