Thursday, July 12, 2018

Cooling down

The heatwave, a backlog of rod builds and a general lack of enthusiasm for fishing has seen me indulging an a lot of slobbing around wishing it wasn't so hot, and a bit of photography.

Some of the rod builds have been custom hobs involving thread colour combinations and other adornments I was a bit unsure of. One of these combinations I knew would look quite tasteful. The cork 'cone' foregrip, lengthy inscription and Union Jack I was less sure of. It turned out better than I'd imagined. Maybe it was the slim aluminium collar which set things off.

 I've used white as a tipping colour once before and it turned out better than I'd expected. But with purple thread I was less certain. While there is a bit of a Cadbury's Dairy Milk look to the finished article, it really isn't bad.

The downrigger rods are now done. These were a challenge of a different kind as I'd been asked to match the handle on an existing rod. With a bit of ingenuity I managed to customise some preformed corks ordered in from the USA and get within a gnat's whisker. The thread colour in this instance I knew would look okay.

Back in the mists of time I read something where the author said that carbon had been invented too soon as it put an end to the development of fibreglass as a blank material. E-glass was just starting to be used when carbon ousted it. These 9ft 6in downrigger blanks are E-glass and they'd make great carp stalking rods. But nobody would buy them because they're fibreglass.

While the outside diameter of the blanks is greater than a carbon blank of similar action there is no increase in weight. Not that I directly compared these blanks to anything they are much lighter than thick walled old style glass blanks. The taper is medium fast, giving a sensitive tip with power low down but with a medium/through action. All academic though as carbon rules the rod roost now.

Fishing? Maybe next week. Maybe...

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Pesky eels

At last I got the urge to go fishing again. Lots of work and lots of heat had resulted in lots of lethargy. And it doesn't take much to encourage lazy old me to do nothing! The enthusiasm must have returned because I got two rods rigged up during the afternoon. Just the two because the only bait I had was a small tub of dendrobenas. I'd be bunching them up, and knowing that bait nibbling bootlaces love these worms I didn't reckon on them lasting too long. One rod was a straight leger, the other had my off-bottom rig on it.

No need for an early start saw me setting off around eight as the day was beginning to cool down. Not wanting to walk too far I headed for no fish bay. And after taking some photographs of a swan and it's cygnet I settled in a swim which gave me some marginal cover on bot the near and far sides.

The legered bait went to the opposite bank, short of an overhanging willow, and the off bottom bait was swung out to my right. It was after a flock of swallows flew along the bay as dusk arrived that I had my first twitchy take to the near side worms. The pattern was set. Twitchy takes to the close in rod.

As it got darker the frequency of the takes increased. Going on past experience I thought there was probably a small eel, or pod of eels, responsible. Eventually I'd connect with one of the takes. I did get one positive run to the legered worms, but they were dropped just as I got my hand to the rod. another frequent frustration when eeling. For me if for nobody else.

True to form patience paid off and shortly after eleven thirty my strike of the off bottom bait rod resulted in something pulling back. That something wasn't big enough to warrant getting the net wet and slimy. With the eel swung in it decided to tangle and slime my hook and lead links. Which were unentanglable by headtorch light. I'd had enough. The mess could be sorted out in daylight at a later date! The worms were getting low anyway...

Saturday, May 26, 2018


It didn't take long for the hawthorn to catch up with where it ought be. One week on and the bushes were a froth of white blossom. The sun was continuing to heat the world up, and apparently put the pike down as I fruitlessly chucked a fresh selection of lures around for a short evening session.

For some reason, quite possibly the state of frustration I seem to get in when the weather is hot, once something goes wrong in that sort of weather I get ratty, which makes more stuff go wrong, making me even more narky. That was why I'd gone fishing in the first place. To chill out!

After that session a load of rod bits I'd been waiting for for ages all turned up at once, meaning it's been work all the way since then. I have relieved the boredom with a few 'project' builds. One is a rebuild of a rod I built a long time ago, another is a pair of E-glass downrigger rods. Those are paying jobs. The third is an ultralight rod I've just finished off which is a bit of a cock up. I'd been asked if I could build an ultralight rod and said I had no source for a suitable blank. A couple of days later I remembered I did have a source and ordered a two piece, seven foot two, ultralight blank. When it arrived I'd forgotten who had been looking for on. I guess it's too late for me to change my ways and get organised!

As I had to order some fittings from the USA for the downrigger rods I added some fancy bits to the order to make up the ultralight. When they arrived I started playing around with them on the blank in the downtimes waiting for glues and varnishes to dry on other rods. It's turned out quite nicely.

Split grips seem to be in vogue on lure rods these days. I have no idea why. I don't think they are very practical. As for the humpbacked reel seat. It feels better than it looks, but my sweaty hands would soon have the soft-touch finish rotting and peeling off!

Had I taken a bit more time considering the build the foregrip would have been changed. It doesn't convince me as it stands.

Thread colour was a tough decision. The blank has a sort of metallic hint to the olive. I went with olive thread tipped with three turns of a sandy shade. How to finish the folding hook keeper was a test. The other week I'f fitted one to a barbel rod for a customer who wanted it a few inches above the rod's handle. I did that and the lettering went between keeper and cork. It looked quite nice. So I scaled the concept down for the ultralight, and did some tricky small lettering.

Ring selection was another conundrum. A couple of years back I built some light spinning rods for a customer with high stand off single foot Fujis. They were on my radar but the frames are a bit heavy for such a light and fine blank. While browsing the US supplier's website I found some similar rings from PacBay in their Minima range.

I've fitted Minimas to a handful of rods for customers, and have a set on trial on my FXH prototype rod. I don't like them. The frames are light but a little agricultural compared to Fujis, and with heavy braid they can be a bit noisy. But for a light rod, to be used with light lines for lightweight fish they will be no worse than the hard chrome rings we used to use in the Dark Ages.

Because the reels used on UL rods have tiny spools there's no need for over-large butt rings, and standing off so much the ring centre is more in line with the spool than it would be in a lower set ring. Whether I'll give this rod a run out remains to be seen!

Talking of the Dark Ages. Here are four canal tench I caught back in 1981. First up is a rare 'bag shot'. I usually returned each tench after weighing.

The second picture is of what remained my PB for some ten years before it was beaten by a fish over twice the weight. It's still my PB float caught tench!

Friday, May 11, 2018

Same old story

These days I find fishing is more therapy than hobby. I seem to go fishing when I need to ease the tension. Yesterday my stress levels had been raised by some infuriating photo-scanning software which not only ran as slowly as usual (which I can live with) it also manage to store the scans in a different folder than it had last time I used it, and promptly lost them all when it decided to crash. Instead of smashing the scanner into tiny pieces with a lump hammer I grabbed a lure rod from the rack, found the box of lures I used last spring, and set off into a warm and sunny evening.

Although late, the hawthorn blossom is not as far behind as the blackthorn was. By the meteorological calendar it's almost summer, but according to the blossom it's mid-spring.

I started out casting a small black Darter given to me by Carl who is producing Loz Harrop Lures. It worked well, but the pike didn't like it any more than I did. I've never got on with tight action, subsurface, baits. Topwaters which walk like that are great, but deeper I prefer a lazier action. A wider glide, or a dive/rise. Pauses are easier to control.

Time to revert to type and chuck a squirrely Burt around. In the third swim it took one cast along the edge to entice a small pike into action. It either missed the lure or failed to get hooked. It was nothing to get upset about when it's second attempt failed on the follow-up cast either.

Two more swims were thrashed before I made another lure change. This time to a sleeper lure which would be in my top ten. The only in-line spinner that I have ever rated for big pike. Not that I've had any really big ones on it, only teenagers, but I know it has caught some lumps for other people. It's easy to cast, easy to fish, and it has its days.

In the seventh swim of the evening the sleeper elicited the same response Burt had done earlier. Two missed chances (whether mine or the fish's I'm not sure) from a similarly sized pike. Time to get the Jackpot out. Perhaps conditions weren't right, but surface action was non-existent. Back to Burty Boy.

I spent some time working the Burt around a promontory while a pair of Canada geese kept a wary eye on me from across the bay as four small balls of fluff with clockwork legs pecked the grass around them. Time was getting on and the air cooling. Back to the usual two swims near the car for the last fifteen minutes.

It only took three casts for the Burt to get hit just short of the rod top. As the pike, maybe a little shorter than the lure, thrashed around I decided against swinging it to hand for the unhooking and to let it shake itself free on a semi-slack line. The plan worked.

In the final swim of my two hour session the drop in temperature was noticeable by the water coming off the braid feeling decidedly chilly on my right hand. Definitely time for home.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Every picture tells a story

Shortly after my previous post the famed Beast from the East arrived, bringing with it a lovely present for me in the form of a bug that was doing the rounds. It was like a cold, not quite flu, but long-lasting. Everyone I know who had it took at least four weeks to feel anything like normal again. I was no exception. Going out of the house for food was a chore, so fishing was out all together. By the time I felt as fit as I usually do pike time had gone and it wasn't warming up enough for anything else to interest me. That's why it took the arrival of some unseasonably warm weather (which came without a catchy name) to fire me up for a springtime overnighter.

Thursday to Friday was looking favourite, but when I'd sorted my tackle out I couldn't find the groundbait and pellets I thought I had. There was a bucket and a half of seed mix, but not enough time to soak it. Never mind, Friday night would be fine. It would give me a chance to pick up some pellets and stuff before I set off. In theory.

The tackle shop was devoid of the pellets I wanted. "Due in later today." Great. I picked up some rubbishy pellets for putting in PVA bags and some soft hookers which turned out to split when I pushed my baiting needle through them.

After having a plumb around the first half hour was spent spodding out particles. The sun has bright and warm where I was. Sheltered from the moderate north westerly. Small fish were dimpling, flipping and fleeing from predators. One or two better fish showed, but none of the bream I was hoping for. With the bait out the rods were readied and soon resting on the pod. Fake corn, fake caster, and a pellety thing. Time for tea.

The evening wore on. The wind eased. The temperature dropped. As dusk fell rattus rolandius came to inspect my spod spill. A clear and starry sky meant the temperature dropped considerably, and a light mist began to form over the now calm water. My hopes began to fade. I really don't like mist on the water.

Before and after dark I had a few single bleeps to the pellety thing rod. There was some hope. Shortly before dark I had swapped the plastic casters for a fake pop-up pellet, and the single fake grain of corn for my favourite two grain set up. At eleven twenty the yellow perils were picked up and the alarm kept on sounding. Somehow or other I managed to hook precisely nothing.

While spodding a few casts resulted in seeds dropping short and to the right of my target area. This was where I'd positioned the pellety bait, the fake baits being (I hoped) on the main bed of feed. Even if this accidental area of bait hadn't been laid I would have dropped that bait short. Three rigs in a tight area can be overdoing things, and following this tactic has caught for me in the past. I think partly that's because our baiting up is never as accurate as we like to imagine. Having watched others spodding from side on the spod almost always lands at different distances.

It was ten to midnight when the right hand alarm sounded again. No single bleep this time, a rapid series of bleeps. Lo and behold there was a fish on when I picked the rod up. Plainly not very big, and equally plainly a bream. It was a pleasure anglers five pounder that might have weighed three had I put it on the scales, but more likely would have just about struggled past 2lb. I didn't bother with the scales or the camera.

By one the rat had either gone to bed or gone elsewhere. The ducks which had been creating a din around midnight had shut up. I began to doze. I'm not sure when I woke but it was cold, nothing was happening, so I took my boots off and got inside my sleeping bag. The next think I know the sky is beginning to show light. At six I had a recast and switched the plastic pellet back to plastic casters in the hope of an early morning tench.

Gradually the day brightened and warmed causing a heavier mist to rise from the surface of the water. Small fish began topping again. The grebes were thinning them out. The bobbins were still, the alarms silent and my hopes all gone. I started taking photos of the sunrise, the mist, rods and reels and even of one of the swans which had annoyed me the previous evening. When a blog is filled with such shots it tells a simple tale. The fishing was rubbish. Or more likely, the angler was. By half past eight I was packing up and heading for home. Defeated.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Downs and ups

It was another case of nothing caught and nothing worth writing about from y first session in February. The day was a rare fine one between many wet ones. Although conditions appeared good there were no signs of fish life. Yesterday was the sort of February day that makes me feel positive. Dry, almost windless with sunny spells which warm the air. Best of all now the sun doesn't sink out of sight until almost six, and there is light to see by later than that, it means that if the UPS van arrives in good time I can still sneak a few hours fishing in.

The baits were in the water by half past two. I'd already seen a couple of small fish top as I walked to my swim. This wasn't my first choice, but after dropping my gear in my intended spot I had a wander along the bank. The trouble with such a day being that ever swim looked inviting in the sunshine.

For some reason I find sunny days at this time of year good for pike fishing. In summer or winter bright sun seems to be a turn off, but maybe there's a warming effect in February and early March. The frogs which have returned to my pond certainly make their presence known when the sun shines on the pond. Sticking their heads out and croaking until the pond is in shade once more.

It hadn't been a half hour when the right hand margin rod, fishing a lamprey head, was in action. The pike didn't fight, just tried to hold station with it's gob open making it feel bigger than it was. If I had no more action it had been worth getting out of the house.

I worked up a bit of a sweat with the unexpected activity and removed my fleece. It was almost warm enough to bask in the sun without the bunny suit.

That didn't last long and as soon as some clouds drifted across the sun I needed the fleece again. Zipping up the bunny suit was in order too. Disaster. The two way zip has been dodgy for a couple of years. Both zippers had to be pulled right to the top before the zip would close as the lower one was drawn back down. This time the upper zipper came off the rails. Pulling the bottom one up and back down closed the zip, but it wouldn't stay closed. Not reliably. Thankfully it wasn't icy cold.

About an hour after the fish I had a move. Again two baits were placed in the margins and the third one cast to a far bank feature. The sun made a reappearance. At four thirty the marginal headless joey mackerel moved off, but was dropped before I got to the rod. More action in two hours than my previous two trips!

Mallards were courting, buzzards mewing and soaring, a magpie cackled. Winter isn't over just yet but it's on the retreat. There's a rear-guard action forecast for the next week, but that won't deter the daffodils shooting through.

Five o'clock was my next scheduled move time. I picked up the lamprey rod and the bait jiggled through what felt like a sunken branch and went solid for a split second before the branch started to shake its head. At first I thought a big unseasonal eel had picked up the bait but the spotty flank rolling on the surface put that idea out of my head. I never have pike take baits as I wind them in. I have fished with someone who had the knack of making this happen on a regular basis. How, I don't know. This time the scrap was a good one. I kept the rod low in an attempt to stop the pike thrashing on the surface, and struggled to get it in the net.

More chaos ensued as I struggled to untangle a mess of mono which had sprung from the reel before I could get the pike ashore to weigh.

I've had this mono (Asso Bullet) on one reel to see how it performs. It's not caused me any problems. It knots easily and reliably, and despite the episode just mentioned isn't as springy as a lot of nylon lines. Part of the problem I had was the reel being out of gear and turning backwards - throwing line from the spool. After this winter I'll be back on braid on all my pike reels though. The monno is for a water which bans braid, an the Bullet will do the trick there. I might even use it on my eel reels this spring/summer.

With the pike returned and the mess sorted out I started to gather my stuff for the move when the sounder in my pocket bleeped. The mackerel was off again. This time I connected. A lively jack was soon unhooked in the edge. Two rods out of action in five minutes almost tempted me to stick in the swim a while longer. The final spot of the day was calling me. It was the one I'd planned on fishing first, after all.

Another sign that spring is on the way was the evening chorus. There was a joyous cacophony of birdsong as the sun began to lower in the sky. Blackbirds, robins, great and blue tits all staking claim to territory and trying to impress potential mates. I spent a few minutes listening to the last of an invisible song thrush's song as the light eventually faded. It was easy to believe the bird was thinking about its improvisations, subtly modifying phrase after phrase with additional trills and warbles as it repeated them. The song ended as the light went. It hadmade me feel happy and content. I wasn't bothered that the final move of the day had produced no more fish. It was time for home.