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 teh 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 teh 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 teh 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!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Stood up again

Just a couple of afternoon sessions squeezed in since my last post. The first was after pike, where I immediately put the mockers on any chance of success by trying out the new rod and using my non-piking reels. The baitrunners on my 6000OCs can be set really slack, a little too slack at their lightest. The same feature on my medium baitrunners isn't as sensitive. I still thought I'd try them for fishing off the 'runner. Whether that account for me having a dropped take I can't say for sure because when I switched to using a drop-off on the same rod I got another dropped take. I never get dropped takes!

The sunset was nice and autumnal, pinkfoots flying west and a barn owl hunting over the scrubby horse field added to the seasonal feel.

The second session was another attempt to make a date with Nicola. I refuse to call a sturgeon anything else! This time I remembered to put her favourite food in the bag. Not that it did me any good. Although warm it was another afternoon redolent of autumn. A robin sang from the leafless pollarded willows behind me, occasionally to the accompaniment of a pair of chittering blue tits. Once more pinkfoots flew west, and the first flock of fieldfares flew past high and heading towards a wood.

I thought I'd try a different bait on the second rod. A bunch of dendrobenas on a maggot clip, to overcome the silly barbless hoook rule, seemed to be worth a try. Alas all it did was attract the attentions of small fish which pulled at the worms until they were all gone. I swapped to a wafter on that rod. As last time it produced a positive take from a daft carp. I hadn't even put out any free offerings! another small double it bent the stalking rod round well, but not for long. And that was my lot.

I'm not sure I can take much more of the hunt for Nicola. One target fish in a small pond stuffed with carp is going to prove frustrating I think. It''s like buying an expensive lottery ticket every time I fish! The carp don't run very big, and carp always leave me feeling let down when I land them. They just don't do anything for me. Still, it's a challenge of sorts.

Friday, October 07, 2016

October first

I've never recognised the 'traditional' pike season. Probably because it has never applied in these parts. Even less have I felt the need to restrict my use of natural baits to the colder months. That said, the water I've been doing most of my piking on these last few years has never seemed to respond well until November. And even then the pike have sometimes been a bit lean and manky looking. No longer being an out and out pike angler I've found some other species to occupy me until I've thought the pike would be back in good nick. But this week I couldn't think of anything to fish for. I still have my eel head on really, but I didn't fancy my chances of catching many. So, as worked had pissed me right off I thought I'd set some rods up to mess about with.

I want to try my 3lb Torrixes for piking. Not that I think they'll be any better than my P-5s, I just want play around with them. I also want to try some mono out on a fish bigger than an eel for using next year if I venture to any catfish waters where braid is prohibited. So far the line seems OK, but a prolonged period of use pike should test it to my satisfaction - or otherwise. I ended up with one P-5 rod still rigged with braid, one Torrix rigged to leger a pike bait, and the other Torrix still rigged for eeling. Well, it's still quite warm and an eel bait might get snaffled at dusk.

When I arrived at the pit it was that warm after a damp and chilly morning that I almost wished I'd brought three rods rigged for eels. After a wander around failing to find inspiration I got the tackle from the car and didn't walk too far. Before I had a bait in the water the drizzle returned. By the time I got to the car to collect my brolly the drizzle had stopped. I took the brolly back to my swim nonetheless.

There was hardly a breath of wind for a change and the bunny suit hardly necessary. In fact I was almost working up a sweat by the time I had three baits scattered around the swim. I'd only taken a pike pack out of the freezer and some eel baits. The eel rod was cast to a spot I'd had eel action from over the last few weeks, a headless joey mackerel was whacked out a reasonable distance on a leger and a large herring tail plopped in the margin on a float leger.

I sat down and got the stuff out to make up some spare traces, only to be thwarted by having only enough wire to make one. That first session is always a good one for finding out what needs replenishing in the tackle box. A mental note was made. And the empty spool put somewhere I couldn't fail to notice it as a further reminded.

The law of sod being what it is my hopes of testing out the mono and the Torrixes came to nought when after a mere thirty minutes the float dipped and set off to my right, the braid running over the Delkim causing it to make a slow warbling noise from the sounder box.

Two turns of the reel handle and the P-5 was buckled right over. The fight was short but spirited, including a gill flaring leap right at the net before the pike was slid into its mesh where I left it as I spread out the mat and zeroed the scales with the sling. The pike was in good condition. Not fat, but chunky looking. Well capable of putting on two or three pounds more before spring.

Although the hooks came free without a problem, a short thrash saw my knuckles grazed. It continues to amaze me how much blood flows from what are really quite superficial wounds when that happens. The pike swam off as if it couldn't give a toss about my bloodied hand!

The usual chaos hadn't been created by the landing of a fish and I was soon delving in the pike pack to chop the herring I'd seen in it in two. Except when I got the thing out it wasn't a small herring but a big sardine. My least favourite deadbait. At least it was big enough to chop in half and the head section was impaled and dropped in the margin.

I hadn't really expected to catch anything so the lack of any further runs didn't surprise or disappoint me. It had crossed my mind to pack up after returning the pike but I hung on in case any eels were feeding. They weren't.

Now I'm even more undecided than usual as to what to fish for. It was mild enough to feel reasonably confident having another try for an eel or two. Then again the pike are clearly feeding - a float angler had hooked one that grabbed one of his roach in another swim. I could have an early session after roach. Or I could drag myself to the river before the leaves make it painful to fish. It was so much easier when I only fished for pike!

Friday, September 30, 2016

Anyone seen my marbles?

After failing to take my brolly with me on Sunday evening's eel session, even though I knew it was going to rain a bit, I discovered my overtrousers aren't as waterproof as they used to be. The eels didn't like the rain much and apart from one stealing one of my baits I was untroubled by them. The chill in the wind and the miserableness of sitting in the rain decided me to give up on eel fishing for this year. That left me in a bit of a state of limbo. It still didn't feel right to go piking, not anywhere close to home and I can't be bothered travelling, so what to fish for?

That wasn't a decision I had to make for a few days because the evil of work prevented me even having the time to get in an evening session until Thursday. Remaining undecided it wasn't until Friday afternoon that I snapped and put the gear in the car to have my first try for the almost-tame sturgeon.  I'd had a look at the palce a few weeks ago, tackle in the car, and got as far as putting the banksticks in before I realised my reels were loaded with the forbidden braided mainline. I managed to avoid paying for a ticket in the few minutes before I left in embarrassment, so it wasn't all bad.

Last minute sessions fishing for something different are always likely to result in something being left behind. I could have sworn I put the tub of sturgeon bait in my Multi-Mat, just like I could have sworn I put a stick of Pepperami in it a week or so back. The Pepperami disappeared into thin air and it looked like the sturgeon bait had too when I came to stick it on my second rod.

I'd arrived around two pm to find three carp anglers blanking away as I walked round the tiny pond. Previously you could have driven round the perimeter of the pond, but after recent rain it looked a bit dicey. I picked a swim as far from anyone else as I could and with firm ground behind it. Everywhere looked as unlikely or likely as everywhere else so I wasn't too fussed about swim selection. This time the eel rods had mono on the reels. All I had to do was tie up a couple of hooklinks to comply with the maximum size 8 barbless hook rule and I'd be in business. The bailiff came round before I had the first rig tied and I handed over the cash.

As I'd taken my eel/catfish tackle box the best I could manage for the hooklinks was 80lb kevlar braid. This proved to be a struggle to get through the eyes of the hooks. But I managed it. The simple plan for this first session was a wafter on one rod and sturgeon bait on the other. While I was rerigging the rods I spotted some bubbling to my left and it seemed as good a place as any to swing out the wafter with its attendant bag of pellets. Then I tied up the other rig and that was when I discovered my bait was missing. Everything came out of the back of the Zafira but still no sign of it. Arse. If I hadn't paid for my ticket I'd have done another runner! Plan B. Fish for c*rp with both rods on the off chance the mug I was after would make a mistake. I had some 16mm pellets in the pellet tub so I chucked one of those out.

There was a definite autumnal feel to the day. The leaves on the distant trees were shades of umber and terre vert, pheasants were scurrying into the maize and a migrant hawker was on the wing. Despite the sun a cool wind was scudding the fluffy white clouds across the cerulean sky and making it cool enough for me to need my fleece.

I'd not been there long when two more vehicles arrived and the anglers walked round the pond. When they got back to their swims it was obvious they were on for at least one night. I'm not sure if I was amused or annoyed by their behaviour. Amused I guess. First the carp cradle was erected, then the chairs, followed by the bivvy, and finally the ritual hammering in of banksticks. It was while watching these antics that another patch of bubbles spread across the surface right where my wafter had landed. Minutes later the alarm sounded and I found myself with the ten footer bent into a carp. It didn't get the chance to take any line and despite pulling a bit was soon in the net where I left it while I got the scales and zeroed them.

Net onto mat, fish into sling, sling hoisted and scales read, fish slipped back. All nice and simple. I only weighed the thing because I'm crap at guessing carp weights and I thought it looked a double, which it was. Rebait, recast, consider packing up. Less than an hour's fishing didn't seem like good value for how much I'd paid and what I'd caught, so I thought I'd stick it until five. Around half three I started watching a chap on another pond playing a fish on the pole. At four thirty I saw him net it. What a lot of fuss to land what looked like a not very big carp.

It was about this time another carper arrived and set up his massive overnight erection two swims away from me. I departed shortly afterwards. Note to self: avoid Friday afternoons here.

Despite the obvious drawbacks of other anglers on a tiny pond I'll be back a few more times when I'm bored. I saw some interesting signs which might lead to something unexpected. But will probably lead to more pesky carps. No matter what happens, I'll be double, and triple, checking that I have everything I need wherever I fish and whatever I fish for next time out!