Friday, May 29, 2020

Ringing the changes

The blue dye put me off fishing before the weather improved and then came lockdown - accompanied by rod orders drying up for over a month. Despite always finding it easy to put off starting work, when there is none I usually go outdoors with rods or cameras but that option was now denied to me.

I spent the early days rereading novels, and then fishing books as a way to escape reality. It was a bit of a nostalgia trip. Chris Yates's Casting at the Sun first took me back. The chapter about Llandrindod Wells always brings back my memories of an afternoon spent there while on holiday with my parents. I was a particularly useless angler in my early years (not that I've improved much) so my lack of anything banked was no surprise. I did have a bite though, and saw a carp cruising by. The real highlight was seeing a VW campervan parked next to the café with a large triangular net propped up against it. Why that image struck me then and stuck in my memory I don't know.

Next up was Quest for Carp, reread for the umpteenth time. The times written of will never come again. It was a period of rapid discoveries and developments of bait, tackle and approaches. The hardships put up with for little reward wouldn't be tolerated by a modern angler!

Then it was time for tench. Both the book of that name by Chris Turnbull and Terry Lampard's great First Cast. Two more modern books which covered a period of change in tench fishing. This was a bad move. By the time I got round to those two books the weather had turned into ideal spring tench weather.I was itching to get the rods out but it wasn't possible. Locked down and locked out of the fisheries. I took top walking along the canal, scene o my very first tench fishing adventures. Days of Mitchell 300s, Fairy Liquid bottle top indicators and cans of sweetcorn. I even had the idea to pass my time writing a book about my tench fishing days over the years. I got as far as planning the chapters and writing the first chapter before I gave up having decided it wasn't working. Maybe one day.

The canal was starting to look good. With boats all locked down the clarity of old was returning. However in the forty years since I caught my first tench there things had changed. Swims had disappeared, encroached by reeds and vegetation. Also noticeable is the appearance of invasive species. The only lilies in the old days were the ones with large pads.Now there are beds of small leaved lilies. I think they are fringed lilies and they are spreading.

Worse is the widespread appearance of the highly invasive Floating Pennywort. This can cause big problems when it really takes hold, covering the entire surface and starving oxygenating plants of light.

Since these walks were only making me wish I could get the rods out, as it warmed into the 20s I was starting to think of eels as well as tench, I changed the routes for my permitted daily exercise to head out into the farmed flatlands. Out there I became a little obsessed with the landscape and started a photographic project which is continuing to keep me thinking and  motivated. So much so that now fishing is allowed I don't want to go! Besides, rod orders have picked up and I'm a bit busier than I often am in spring.

Rod building has been testing these past six months. Particularly getting reliable supplies of rings and some other fittings. The ring situation has improved a little, although it's still far from perfect or predictable.

Being forced into using rings which aren't my standard Fujis has made me realise why I prefer the Fujis! Functionally there is nothing wrong with Seymo or Kigan rings. The liners won't damage braid, the frames are strong enough. They also have the theoretical advantage over Fuji BSVOGs of being a little lighter. While they don't quite have the 'finish', or look of quality, to them that Fujis have, what I really don't like about them is that they need more work doing to them before I can whip them to rods.

Vortex ring
All rings need the feet grinding so the thread will make a smooth transition from blank to ring foot. This is easily done on a bench grinder. Some sizes of Seymo 247S also need a burr grinding off the underside of a foot. One extra step. If that wasn't enough the frames need bending to get both feet of a three leg ring to lie flat on the blank. This is an annoying trait shared with Kigans and one which really bugs me. The only advantage Kigan and Seymo rings have is that supply is consistent!

There are other rings available. I have fitted PacBay rings in the past, including their Minima rings. Again they are perfectly functional. Again they aren't as nice to work with. Minimas don't have ceramic centres. They have a rolled over metal liner. That means there's nothing to pop out or crack and there is a weight saving. They do look a bit like the ceramic has fallen out though! I'm told they are an improvement on earlier rings using metal inserts which were prone to grooving. My very limited experience of them suggests that they are okay to use with braid. The only caveat being that if the liner gets damaged it could well prove abrasive to line. But the chances of such damage is probably negligible.

This talk of Minima rings is all by way of introduction to a similar ring from American Tackle. the Vortex. The frames are not quite as nice looking as Fujis, but on a par with other brands. However, my first samples don't need any fettling beyond the usual transitional grinding. Vortex rings look even more like the liners are missing than Minimas. This is because the liners are as black as the frames! Not having used these rings I have no idea how they perform or if the black liners stay black.

With nothing better to do after varnishing a batch of rods I thought I'd get nerdy and compare some of these rings. Below is a photo of the rings I have referred to above. Click it for a closer look) These are all 30mm size.

Remaining nerdy I weighed them on my electronic scales, which don't do fractions of grammes. The results are as follows:
  1. Seymo 247S - 7g
  2. Fuji BSVOG - 8g
  3. Fuji BCLSVOG - 8g
  4. Kigan -7g
  5. Vortex - 5g
Make of that what you will!

The tip rings supplied with the sample sets of Vortex rings were ceramic lined. I need to check if that was down to the sizes I asked for. The rings themselves are currently available in sizes 50mm to 8mm.

I've just realised there is another ring I occasionally fit missing in this frame style. Alconite lined Fujis. I have previously compared these with the very similar BSVOG here.

As I'm still obsessed with photography I can't see me wetting a line for a while. When I do it will most likely be for eels. As usual I don't want to start chasing Anguilla too early. Maybe another month. By which time I fully expect the heatwave to be over and the monsoon season to have arrived.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Almost interested - and rod ring news

Sometime back I leant a discontinued lure to someone for them to make a mould off it and knock up some copies. A few weeks back I was sent some, beautifully painted by Mark Houghton. They looked so good I got a couple of rods rigged up and went to try them out. The idea was to have one rod rigged with an original (the gold plate one in the pic below) and the other to test the copies.

First cast and the reel wouldn't go back in gear. The button was sticking. I put this down to the usual worn or broken spring. Good job I'd taken two rods!

The copy Magnum Hellcats seem to cast a little better than the original. As they are moulded from solid plastic rather than being hollow they are a little denser so also slightly less buoyant. The hooks I fitted didn't provide quite enough of a keel effect leading to a tendency to 'burst' when twitched hard. mark suggested a size larger belly hook which I'll fit in due course.

The afternoon was mild and pleasant. Unfortunately blue, weed inhibiting, dye had been put in the previous weekend and the water which I had expected to be clear enough to see the lures working deep (for a Hellcat) had very limited visibility. I still tried a number of likely swims but the colour didn't do anything for my enthusiasm.

After that brief session the weather reverted to type for the winter. Wet and windy. So I lost interest again.

 Even before teh Covid-19 pandemic began to impact on deliveries from overseas it had been a real struggle to get hold of Fuji rings in all teh sizes I use. Some having been on back order since the start of December.

This has meant I've been fitting Seymos to rods for people who are not prepared to wait for the missing size 25 Fuji BSVOGs to turn up. The other alternative has been to fit more expensive Fuji Alconite or SiC rings, or Kigans. None of those are without problems either as some Alconites have gone out of stock and Kigans are not available in size 6 (which I fit to Avon rods).

If all this wasn't hassle enough I got warned that BSVOG rings are being discontinued. I fit those to the majority of rods. ApparentlyFuji's  black reel seats are going too. It's something to do with an environmental issue related to the black finish.

As yet I'm not sure what is happening with regard to the reel seats, but I have had a sample of the new ring through. And rather tasty it is too! The overall frame shape and size matches that of the BSVOG, but the ceramic is held in a 'rolled' section of frame like the MNSG SiC and BMNAG Alconite centres have been for many years.

They are also have a 'black chrome' finish which is more akin to the Gunsmoke finish of SiC rings or maybe a slightly darker version of the Kigan frames.

When these will be on stream I don't yet know, but I'll be switching to them as soon as I can. I will have limited stocks of BSVOGs for a while to use on repairs and for matching existing rods. They might not last long though and the Seymo alternative (assuming they continue) will be held in their place.

I have also seen the Vortex rings which Harrison's stock. These are similar to the hard chrome lined Pac-Bay Minima rings which look good on light rods. When I first saw the Vortex rings they were only available in large sizes for carp rods. These should soon be available in sizes down to 8, making them usable on tench and barbel rods. More news on that when I know more.

In the meantime, here are some ropey photos comparing the BSVOG and new frames.

Friday, January 03, 2020

You never can tell

It all started with a walk back from the Post Office along the canal bank. Something about the day told me that fishing was a better bet than clearing moss off the drive or stocking up at the supermarket. If nothing else at least I could stop off at the chippy on my way home after another blank session to cheer myself up.

The festive holidays are still not over for everyone and there were cars in the car park. I could see one swim taken but it wasn't on my radar anyway. No problem. On my way to my first choice spot I dropped my gear off in one which has never done me any favours despite its visual promise. When I'm suffering blankitis I always think there are two way out - fish a swim with a track record, or try something left field. This one was the latter sort of swim.

Carrying on without my gear I saw that number one choice was occupied. Worse still by a pike who was unhooking a decent looking fish. I could have got the hump at that but I looked on the positive side - if one decent pike was feeding others might be. number two choice was free but there was someone fishing opposite it. The distance is sufficient for that not to be a problem, but I prefer to imagine I have the place to myself!

On my way back to my gear I stopped to look at a swim which has been kind and unkind to me. It looked well with a ripple on the water from right to left. I could use that to drift a bait along a feature to some reeds. Static baits had been doing me no favours so I was determined to try to make things happen. I was soon back and starting to set up.

I was a bit fed up of using the blueys I'd got. I've caught well enough on blueys but on bigger, chunkier ones cut in half. The ones in my cool bag were not much bigger and fatter than snake launce. I was going to dip deeper into my dwindling stock of lamprey to fish two on the float leger rigs and drift a smelt about under a float.

First out was a fresh lamprey head to the left hand margin. It's tail followed to the right. I would have fished two heads but I had fewer lamprey in the bag than I thought I did. Then I set about swapping the third rig over to float fish. I had two large shot pinched on the trace when I heard a steady whirring sound. The left hand float had disappeared and the reel's spool was spinning.

The net was grabbed and I pounced on the rod. My strike met with a hell of a resistance. Whatever had picked up my bait was either an unexpected monster or in some sunken branches. Keeping the pressure on resulted in movement. A couple of kicks and a large stick broke surface. Another kick and the pike was free.The rod retained an impressive bend as the pike bore deep, made a run or two then thrashed briefly on the top before I drew it over the net cord. The weighsling would be getting an outing.

Quickly unhooked, weighed and photographed I slipped her back. As I stood up I noticed the line on the other rod was hanging limp. That float had gone too! The net was up the bank so I'd have to chance hand landing the fish no matter how big. No problem so long as I can see where the hooks are. As it turned out the fish was only a rooter. Easily unhooked and returned without the palaver of weighing.

All that excitement and I'd worked up a sweat. The rigs were in a fit state to be used again, and both baits still attached to the hooks. Back out they went. I got back to sorting the float rig. Or tried. The left hand float bobbed, rose, then after a pause bobbed once more before setting off ever so slowly. Net picked up and I was by the rod winding down again. I felt something, then the bait came back. Oh well. With the blank saved I wasn't too bothered. Pike were in the area and feeding. I might still have a chance. I'd only been fishing for half an hour after all.

Now I had a chance to sit down and write in my new year's diary. I've been using Black and Red notebooks as fishing logs/diaries for years. Now they come with inspirational quotes in them. I'm not a fan of motivational phrases. I much prefer the wisdom of Homer Simpson. "Trying is the first step towards failure." That sort of thing. Still, one line was apt after my run of failures.

Thinking there might be some merit in sticking in this swim until dark I let the float drift around for an hour. Then the feet got itchy again. I moved to the next swim along. As I set up the second rod rest the first float stabbed under. That was it. Float under, a few sharp clicks on the reel. Nothing more. very odd. As the bait had already been chewed I couldn't tell if there were fresh teeth marks on it.

Time passed. The sun's reflection moved off my middle float in the middle distance. Fieldfares came and went, there are hardly any berries left on the hawthorns now. A buzzard landed briefly in a birch on the far side of the lake. I was pondering a return to my first swim. When boat fishing we'd often 'rest' a spot after catching a few pike from it by moving elsewhere on the water to return later on and catch a few more from the original hotspot. This contemplation was a cue for the left hand float to fall flat. Slowly, very slowly, it began to move to the right. It was so close in, closer than the rod tip, that I waited for it to get to my right before I wound down. Once more I felt something before the bait cam back. I'd give it a bit longer and move for the last hour.

That's just what I did. Alas my only visitors were a robin hopping from rod to rod in teh hop I would feed it, and three noisy wrens as it got dark. I wondered if the wrens were planning on huddling together somewhere for the night as I've heard they are liable to do this in nest boxes and such like for warmth during the winter. It was certainly the first time I've seen three wrens together.

Thinking back this day of increased pike activity was also one of increased bird activity. I saw a greater variety than of late, too. Coincidence? I'm beginning to think not.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Christmas cheer and a happy New Year

The rain stopped at long last so I set out for my traditional Christmas Day festivities - trying to catch a pike. Conditions were encouraging. Mild, little wind, some sun and a deserted lake. Having the pick of the swims I thought I'd fish tried and tested ones. The only bites I had were of my sausage rolls.

That was four blanks on the trot. I'd forgotten my three blanks and try for a different species rule. I should have done what I almost did and bought some maggots to have a try for roach after the third blank. Idiot.

With the rain still holding off yesterday I took a walk round the lake in the afternoon. It looked very tempting. I was back there before noon today. This time I wasn't alone but there was still plenty of room. One swim that I haven't fished much looked enticing on my walk, and still did when I dumped my gear in it today. Looks were deceiving though. After an hour I was ready for a move to another spot I'd made a mental note of.

As time passed in this swim I was getting desperate. I was neither confident nor despondent really. Everything seemed like a run could materialise any minute. Even with my three matching rods and reels and Fred on watch nothing was happening. So I threatened Fred with the chop if I didn't get a run.

One more move before dark. I'd seen small fish topping and rolling to my right. At least it was something to go on. With three baits out in likely looking spots (I'd ditched the bluey and had two lamprey halves and a fresh smelt on the hooks) I chopped up the discarded baits and scattered the bits around the marginal lamprey tail. That one could stay where it was until it got taken or I packed up. The other two would get twitched and/or recast at intervals.

For a change there were mallard on the water. That gave me some hope, as did hearing a water rail as dusk closed in. I always feel more confident when water birds are active for some reason. More small fish topped, a skimmer rolled. More confidence boosts. My hopes were misplaced. Still the floats didn't move. Five blanks on the run.

I can only assume that the fishy gods knew I wouldn't have the heart to run Fred trough with my bait knife after all the good catches we've shared since he hopped into my rucksack. At least with the rain gone for the time being I'm getting the fishing bug back a bit.

With another fishing year over it's a strange one to look back on. I've fished far less than ever before and thought I'd caught little of note. Certainly pike have been thin on the unhooking mat, but having given up on the eels rather sooner than I would have liked I still managed to have my best season for them in terms of numbers of 'decent' fish, topped off by one I should have got the self-take gear out for. I'm not wishing for a drought in 2020, but less rain would be nice.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Things can only get better. Can't they?

The weather today was too good to let go to waste. Light wind, sunshine and... NO RAIN! I was set up after lunch, three baits out. I was too lazy to get the banksticks and alarms out. I'd be busy playing and landing pike anyway.

After the usual hour I moved. Although there were lots of fieldfares about there had been a distinct lack of waterfowl activity. As I moved my gear in three trips to the next swim a couple of moorhens broke cover from a marginal hawthorn. That was about all I saw on the water all afternoon.

Swim number two was as unproductive as the first one. A final move after an hour to a real banker swim. The pads have all but gone now so two baits were dropped where there would have been some lilies on teh surface during the summer and the third in the never-fail margin spot. OK, it does fail now and then, but it's turned up pike regularly in the past.

Despite his best efforts at fish spotting, Fred was no help. The banker was a blanker.

I'm beginning to wonder if it's the odd rod out that's jinxing me. Next time (whenever that will be) I'll be back on matching rods. That should get the pike feeding.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Winter's coming

At last there was a mild, dry afternoon when I had some time free and I felt like catching some pike. The sun was shining, fieldfares cackling, and the late autumn sun casting a warm glow on the world.

Everything looked so good it was a struggle to walk past swims which tempted me, but I was going to stick to my plan and fish 'bankers'. It didn't take long to have three baits positioned  in good spots. The smelt even smelled of cucumber, which I find is a rarity with pre-packed baits. When I bought them from Liverpool fish market back in the dim and distant past they were really strong smelling. A lamprey head end on another rod and a headless bluey on the third. All baits which have produced for me from this place.

So confident was I that I stuck it longer than an hour in the first swim before moving to another which always throws a fish up around sunset. A close in bait has proved good in this spot so I sat well back from the water once the rods alarms set.

Other than a lone tufty, a dozen mallards and a couple of moorhens there were no other waterfowl to be seen. The starlings must have found a new roost as they didn't show up as they had done on earlier visits.

Once the sun had set I felt dew forming on my bunny suit, but it was still keeping me cosy. With my headtorch ready for action it would only be a matter of time before it would need switching on while I unhooked a pike.

Or not.

I hung on until the floats were impossible to see in the dark reflections before admitting defeat. This is becoming a bad habit. Have the pike switched to morning feeding? Are they waiting until night time? Are they sick of deadbaits lying on the bottom? Are they still there? I guess trying again is the only way to find out.