Monday, December 31, 2018

A funny old year

2018 will go down as the year I fished least since I got serious about fishing. Counting the days in my diary there were ten. Despite this I still managed to catch one more double figure pike than in my first serious season fishing for them. That season was a hard slog. I think it was over twenty sessions for four pike - two doubles. I guess with age come experience and that helps put a few fish on the bank for less apparent effort.

What doesn't put fish on then bank is not going fishing. The reasons this year were a combination of cold and wet early on and a heatwave later. Add on a dollop of other interests and a smidgen of feeling under the weather and the motivation was soon lost. Once it's gone, if there is something to take its place, it can go for good. Not that it matters in the broader scheme of things. Fishing isn't life. So long as I have something to fill my spare time and, more importantly, occupy my mind, it's not the end of the world. These days taking photographs is fulfilling that role.In some ways the two are similar. You go to big fish waters if you want to catch big fish, you go to places where the subjects you want to photograph are. In both cases the results are not guaranteed!

I'm not selling my tackle just yet. My renewal for one club I belong to is in the post. Springtime will soon be here. A change in the weather might get me moving again. What I need is a fishy challenge, something new to do. If I don't find one then this blog may well have run its course.

On that cheery note, Happy New Year!

Monday, December 10, 2018

Something in the air

Maybe it was the way the sun was sifted through the clouds or the stillness and warmth in the air making it feel more like early spring rather than early winter that got me gathering my pike gear after lunch. For the first time in ages I actually felt like I needed to go fishing. To my surprise I had the place to myself. Apart from the huge flock of fieldfares which flew up from the hawthorns surrounding the car park when I arrived.

On Saturday damp feet had reminded me there was a pair of boots waiting for me in the country store and I'd been breaking them in ever since. Despite the boots feeling pretty comfortable this had resulted in a rather large blister on one big toe. I wasn't fit to walk to a distant swim so hobbled to one in sight of the car which had been good to me in the past.

After a freezer disaster during the summer I hadn't much choice in the deadbait trays. One pack of lamprey and one of small blueys would have to do. Two baits I have confidence in as it happens.  Half a lamprey was dropped in the margin to my right and a bluey to the left. Then I set about tying on a new trace to the third rod. This was rigged with a lamprey head and cast out to a feature. All was quiet and still.

Save for some bubbles repeatedly appearing just out from my right hand bait nothing happened. With it being so mild I wondered if bream fishing might have been a better idea. After an hour I moved.

The same baits were spread around the swim. The banker lamprey head was dropped next to the banker overhanging bush. That would trundle off when the light faded. Another hour later I repositioned the left hand and middle baits. Half an hour on I did it again. There was no fishy activity to be seen.

The fieldfare flock returned, flew overhead. Perched briefly in some tree tops. Then disappeared. From the reeds at the side of my swim came the angry churring of a blue tit and a higher pitched call. A small bird-shaped silhouette materialised. Smaller than a blue tit with a finer, more pointy beak. It flitted across my swim into a hawthorn and I realised it was a goldcrest. The first I've seen at the water. It was soon gone. The blue tit quietened down too.

It was still mild when the orange of the floats faded to grey and eventually to black against the water surface. Three hours and no pike activity. Head torch on and time to head home to fill my rumbling belly.

In some ways it had been good to be back by the water. Being increasingly impatient as I get older a fish or two would have made it even better. At least the gear is now ready to go as the whim takes me. That excuse has been eliminated! I might even stock up on bait.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Irish pike need your Euros

There were hopes that the tide was turning for Irish pike. Their status as an introduced species had been successfully questioned by scientific research. The wanton removal of pike looked as if it would be curtailed, and maybe even stopped in the not too distant future. Sadly, politics appears to have changed all that.

Since 2006 only one pike over 50cm was allowed to be taken by an angler. This went a long way to prevent (when obeyed and enforced) the wholesale slaughter of pike by anglers fishing for the pot or out of blind hatred of pike.

Sadly there remains a faction of Irish anglers who cannot accept that pike are native to their waters, that they play a beneficial role in the ecosystems, or that they are not intent on eating every trout and salmon that swims. Plain and simple they want to see an Ireland without pike. Some dream of an Ireland where only salmonids swim.

Through exerting political pressure in the face of scientific evidence these anglers have succeeded in lobbying to get a bye-law passed allowing the taking of four specimen pike per angler per day in certain limestone loughs. Although this bye-law is limited in its geographical application it is a major retrograde step for both pike, pike angling, and the economy in the area to which it applies. It also sets a most worrying precedent.

Irish pike anglers are not at all happy (gross understatement) with either the the bye-law or the manner in which it has been brought into force. Such is their anger that they are seeking to mount a challenge in the High Court to the legislation. This will cost money. Thanks to the internet it now only takes a few clicks for pike anglers around the world to give their support to the cause. If every pike angler contributes a few Euros their target will soon be met.

Please follow this link (please share far and wide) to read more details about this disgraceful state of affairs, and maybe add your donation to the pot.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Another handle style

Quite why I've built three sets of rods with cork handles that featured short cork 'cones' in front of the reel seat over the last few weeks is probably coincidence. Maybe the look has grown on me because of this, but I'm liking it.

For most rods the foregrip serves no practical function. Certainly when using a fixed spool reel.

On thicker diameter blanks there's not much scope for fitting a winding check (as per photo on the right), but on slimmer blanks a fine aluminium check is an option.

Functional and aesthetically pleasing to my eye.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Out of the habit

I read an interview with a photographer, Homer Sykes, who said that he was no longer obsessed by photography, it had become a habit. Thinking about it I reckon that's what fishing happens to the angling obsessed.The heatwave put me off moving around, let alone fishing, and by the time it was over I was out of the habit of going fishing. Getting back into it is proving difficult.

When someone mentioned seeing a decent perch caught locally it gave me a bit of an idea to try somewhere new. I'm definitely in need of some kind of piscatorial challenge. I rigged up that ultralight rod I'd build, threw my box of perch spinners (they are a safer bet than that new-fangled drop-shotting nonsense) in a shoulder bag and set off on the tedious journey to my destination.

It was a warm evening back in August. I only lasted half an hour before I got bored. To be honest the venue was small with not much scope for exploration, so when I'd caught a tiny perch I reckoned that was my challenge completed!

After that it was back to my new obsession - taking photographs of sheep at agricultural shows which I'd sort of set myself as a project for the summer. Even back in my twenties when I was a pike obsessive I always maintained that if angling were banned I'd find something else to do. In some ways going fishing has always been a diversionary activity for me. A way of avoiding real life!

Another habit I've been in, since the very first time it was held, is going to the Pike Anglers' Club annual convention. Originally as an attendee and latterly as an exhibitor. This year I almost broke that habit too. There was a sheep show on the same day...

From a financial point of view I'd not have been much worse off if I had taken the sheep road. In terms of cash in my hand, for the first time I can remember, it was disappointing. I usually end up with a good few empty pegs on my display board of hooks, swivels and other rig bits. Not this time, although rod orders taken on the day were worth the effort. Even so, I have to admit that three hour drives at daft o'clock appeal less and less to me as I get older and older even if there is money to be made.

What was apparent at the show was the lack of young faces. Thirty years ago I'd say the age range of the pikers in attendance was mid-twenties to late thirties. Now it's those ages plus thirty. The same old (operative word) faces as back then. I don't know if this is indicative of a lack of younger pike anglers, or whether they are out there but events like the convention don't appeal to them.

Talking to a few of the pikers of my generation and a little older I was relieved to find that I'm not alone in losing the drive to fish. As one said to me, "We've done it all." Maybe not all, but certainly a lot. And there isn't much left in angling that I haven't done that I've wanted to do. The few things left undone have probably been left because they never really interested me much. Getting them over with would be more of a box ticking exercise than a really enjoyable challenge. Sort of like cramming to pass an exam.

One display that did interest me was that from the Anglers National Line Recycling Scheme. Apart from the positive PR the scheme has the potential to generate, it is doing something practical. Being primarily a braid user my line lasts me years, but even braids can be recycled through the scheme. Although they do have to be kept apart from nylon lines.

Notable by their absence this year (not for the first time) was the Angling Trust. Despite their absence they were talked about. Listening to people with their fingers on the political pulse and reading the trade press I am getting the impression that peopel are losing patience with the Angling Trust.

I haven't renewed my membership for a few years now. Since the last time they had a stand at the PAC show in fact. I always used to renew my ACA subs at the show, and continued that with AT. But if they can't be bothered to support a member organisation's annual event then I'm reluctant to give them my money. Especially when I'm not convinced it is being spent wisely or in my interests. I'd be less cynical if I thought those who run the outfit were real anglers, out there week in week out, and not the holiday fishermen they appear to be. A few more coarse and sea anglers in high office would be reassuring too.

The argument for supporting AT because they are 'the only game in town' when it comes to lobbying government or other authorities is wearing thin. In this age electronic communication there are other ways to make a noise that don't involve going through the official channels. And if you can create enough noise in cyberspace you will be listened to. There are other organisations who may be willing to fight the angler's corner too. Time for AT to take a good look at itself. Keep an eye on Catch Cult magazine if you have an interest in the machinations of Angling Trust.

During the aforementioned heatwave I had a freezer malfunction. While it forced me to throw out some ancient pike baits it left the cupboard bare. I must be getting some fishing urges because I have started to restock the deadbait drawer. With a nip in the air some mornings I am starting to envisage a chunky orange float rocking in a gently rippling reflection of golden leaves. But there is this sheep show...

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...