Friday, August 28, 2015

You never can tell

There wasn't much rain forecast for Thursday night, which seemed like a pleasant change, just some showers from 3.00 on Friday morning clearing to sunshine. There's around eight hours of darkness now giving plenty of time to be disturbed by run after run from those frustrating anguillas. That was the plane. How many times do I say that? Roughly as many times as things turn out completely differently.

Following the warm walk to my chosen swim, one closer to shallower and weedier water than last time, I took my time getting set up. With no rain around the rods got baited and cast out before the bivvy was erected. A perch head cast to open water and the tail section dropped over the marginal weed. I also stuck a third rod out for whatever might pick up a dumbell shaped wafter over some hemp and corn I's had in the freezer. The kettle had boiled when the line tightened on the sleeper rod and the bobbin held tight,. That was all. I pulled the bobbin back down and returned to my brew.

There are still flocks of swallows visiting the water as evening sets in, and that chiffchaff hanging around, but the swifts are long gone and I haven't seen a tern for ages. There's just one juvenille grebe following its parents around, despite being able to dive itself and the two late mallard ducklings are growing fast. Signs of fish were few and far between. Something that might have been a tench splashed a couple of times, and tiny fish dimpled the surface. Any signs of bubbling were concealed by the ripple from the strong westerly.

In readiness for the night I decided to recast all three rods before it was dark enough to need the headtorch. When I picked up the sleeper rod it felt like there might be something attached to the hook. Probably weed. Strange weed though. It started to pull back. At first I imagined it would be a small tench. Then I caught a glimpse of some scales and hoped for a big roach. Once in the net in the dim light I almost took it for a decent crucian. But something wasn't right. This must have been the fish that gave the indication. It must have got hooked and then weeded itself. Or maybe it thought it was a bream and just sat there pinned to the lead!

The sky was clear, the almost-full moon bright and the air temperature falling. I wasn't too confident but if those showers arrived things might improve with the cloud cover. They didn't. It wasn't cold, but it wasn't muggy either. I pulled my fleecy cover over me and got some sleep. Just two single bleeps, one to the far deadbait the other to the wafter, were the only times the alarms sounded. Despite the conditions you can usually count on eels keeping you awake with their dropped takes and aborted runs. Annoyingly unpredictable creatures.

The wind had eased a little during the night, and swung to the south. The sky clear by dawn. Around five thirty I was up and about swapping the eel rods over to fish fake corn and a pop-up close in over some more hemp, corn and pellets. The wafter rod got recast and the swim rebaited too.

It wasn't long before the temperature was rising with the sun which seems to move more quickly across the sky these days as autumn approaches. Low and bright that sun had forced me to dig out my sunglasses when the unexpected happened. A proper run to the wafter rod that nearly had it off the rests.

Everything was solid when I bent into the fish but constant pressure from the through action rod got something moving. It wasn't until I netted the ball of weed to see a pair of tench lips that I knew I'd caught something! One more of the lake's tiddler tincas. Somewhere in the region of a couple of pounds it was a short and stocky fish.

As the day continued to warm and the clouds disperse I had a repeat performance. This time the ball of weed contained a longer slimmer tench but still weighing about the same. I was all set for a few more of the little red-eyed beggars but they must have moved on because that was my lot. Once more I'm wondering what the hell to fish for before the pike call to me. probably another eel session or two then maybe some roach fishing. I really ought to drag myself back to the river.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Lost my marbles

Despite being a 'hole in the ground' the Railway Pond it's becoming naturalised and is surprisingly peaceful and secluded. It's also alive with dragonflies. Or it was on warm, sunny days with little wind when I'd walked around it previously. Common darters, black-tailed skimmers, brown hawkers and the usual blue damsel selection were out in force. Yesterday being warm but overcast and windy the dragonflies were keeping a low profile. No doubt a bit of stalking would have found a few more than I saw, but this time I had completely lost the plot and was there to catch c*rp....

It must have been the challenge of trying to catch one of a handful of (possibly mythical) double figure fish out of a water that is stocked more like a breeding pond than a fishery that appealed to me. Or maybe I just wanted to see if the Delkims still worked!

Tench rods and rigs would be ideal, so that was how I set up. With the usual tench baits too. It took only minutes to realise that two grains of fake corn or a 10mm boilie weren't going to deter the ravening hordes of pasty carp - nor the buffet sausage roll sized ones.

Even stepping up the baits to a 14mm wafter thingy or two 10mm boilies didn't do much to stop the nibbles and runs from the pests. The only way I found to reduce the activity was to stop introducing any feed. No sooner did a handful of pellets hit the water than a rod top would start knocking. A bag of pellets on the hook wasn't much better. No. Hookbaits only was the way forward.

Eventually it paid off and I found myself attached to something I couldn't swing to hand, but not close to a double -  although I've seen pictures of similarly sized (but unweighed) carp labelled as such. At least it was a common. If all carp were commons I would be more inclined to fish for them. Mirrors are just plain ugly. I don't care how big they might be, or what anyone else says about them, they're ugly. All of them. They were bred to have few scales to make them easier to prepare for the pot. Best place for them if you ask me.

Four hours and twenty odd fish later I'd got the madness out of my system and made it back to the car just as the rain set in.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Losing my marbles

Having a freezer stocked with suitable eel baits makes it easier to decide what to fish for. The difficulty is picking a good night for it. The first session was a last minute effort fishing until midnight. Runs came quickly, and frequently, but if the bootlace that dropped off on the way in was anything to go by that was all that was playing. It was mildly entertaining, but the clear sky saw the air temperature drop sharply. I wasn't that disappointed to pack up.

I almost got the gear ready for an overnighter during the week. Getting as far as loading the barrow and pod into the car. But a rain shower put me off. I love being by the waterside at night when it's warm and dry, but not so much in the rain. All the more surprising that Saturday night saw me scanning the weather forecast and making sure I was in a swim before the heavy rain and thunder was due to arrive at eight.

If I hadn't had a walk around before getting the gear out of the car I'd have managed to get set up in the dry. As it was the darkening sky ensured that I broke my golden rule and set the bivvy up first. Just as well I did because before I had the rods put together the rain arrived, right on cue. And it sure did arrive. The thunder was rolling past slowly on the light breeze. Although it was obviously just a passing storm I really did question my sanity! I took cover and put on my waterproof jacket so I could get two deadbaits out as soon as the rain eased.

The car's thermometer had read 18.5 as I got to the lake. With just a t-shirt under the jacket I was sweating. The cloud cover would keep the temperature up and if the forecast was correct there'd be showers until threeish then it would stay dry and the morning would be hot and sunny.

The baits hadn't been out ten minutes when I missed a run. Bootlaces again? Probably. But encouraging. As darkness fell, early because of the cloud cover and because the nights are lengthening, the action increased. It was the usual story of dropped takes and missed runs, but during breaks in the rain I netted three eels. One only just more than a bootlace, one not quite a two pounder and the third scraping over that weight.It was a good job I had stocked up on baits because I was getting through them at quite a rate.

When I'd put the bivvy up the wind had been in the north west, when it swung to the south west it was still not blowing the rain inside as it remained light. When it swung to the east and picked up in strength enough to make waves lap noisily on the bank the rain was driving through the bivvy door. I had to drop it half way down to keep myself dry. I thought about repositioning the bivvy during a break in the rain, but knowing my luck that would have caused the wind to change direction again. Again the forecast proved right and the rain eventually blew over completely. It was still very warm. I only put the bunny suit on around three so I could lie on top of the bedchair cover ready for action. But by then I was knackered. every time I dozed off I'd get a run. When the alarms fell silent I suspected the baits had both been pinched, I left them alone and shut my eyes to try and get some sleep.

Daylight is creeping slowly now, around five the sky lightens. That was time for me to bring the  (baitless) eel rigs in and put out three tench/bream/carp baits. More for something to do instead of pack up and go home. As the need for a headtorch passed I spotted some fish bubbling and chucked one rig over to them. Again more in hope than expectation. The bunny suit was soon removed. By eight thirty the sweatshirt had come off too. It was one of the hottest mornings I've woken up to this summer by water.

A short wander found a group of fish bubbling merrily in a small area in the margins. I wound all the rods in and took the plastic corn baited one and a landing net to have a try for them. My success rate at this sort of fishing is nil. But it would pass an hour. What the fish were I have no idea. I think a couple of tench slapped their tails in the vicinity. Some of the bubbles looked tenchy too. I'll never know because I didn't get a take. I did get a close view of a buzzard and a kestrel. Both on the hunt. A late chiffchaff was chiffing and chaffing, eventually revealing itself in a willow. By the time the hour had stretched by fifty percent it was going to be a sweaty walk back to the car.So it proved. Not surprising as the thermometer was now reading 21.5.

If it hadn't been such a wet night, and I hadn't got so knackered, I'm sure I'd have fished a bit better, had more runs and probably landed a few more eels. I'd have done more recasting and rebaited when the baits had got mangled instead of chucking them back out again. At least I caught though. Which makes a change!

If there are enough baits in the freezer I'll get another eel session or two in over the next couple of weeks. What'll come after that is anybody's guess, because I have no ideas what to do between eel-time and pike-time in November beyond trying for roach if it's not too weedy.

Thursday, August 13, 2015


I'm still doing my impression of a small flatfish and floundering round trying to settle in to some consistent fishing.Another dabble with the eels came to nought, other than the inevitable missed or dropped takes. I blame my putting out a third rod for 'whatever comes along'. It never pays off for me to try that tactic.

What I need to do is get focused and concentrate on one thing for a while. My latest 'dabble' was for bream. Ball in a load of corn-laced groundbait on a hot evening and fish fake corn and mini boilies over the top of it. A great plan. Until it unravelled when the clear sky gave way to mist so thick I could barely make out the far bank less than 100 yards away and the air temperature plummeted far enough to give me a cold nose as I lay under the fleecy bedchair cover. One short lift on the boilie bobbin just after break of day was all the action I had.

I saw a few shooting stars before the mist arrived. I wished on them, but they were only satellites... No, they weren't, but the Billy Bragg song got stuck in my head after I saw the first one.

In the morning that mist soon burned off into another of the few glorious summer days we've had this year putting black tailed skimmers on the wing. The dew on my brolly soon evaporated and I was able to pack up and get home in good time to slap some varnish on a couple of rods.

Heavy morning dew and darker evenings means the end of summer will sneak up on me. Better try to make more of the warm days and nights while I can. Originally my spring/summer fishing was mapped out with tench until they spawned (another dismal failure), then eels until September (just can't get started on the snakes) when I'd turn to bream before starting pike and roach fishing in late October or early November. I might have to get back on that track instead of switching the points and getting stuck in the sidings. Another bait catching session is called for. A well stocked freezer makes it easier to contemplate eel sessions when the mood takes me. And I think I'll drop the all-nighters too.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A change of direction

The light was starting to fade by the time I had my baits out at nine. Partly due to being a month past the longest day and partly due to the overcast sky. A piece of squid had been under-armed out on the left hand rod and a bunch of worms cast well out on the into Bleatmere for my first overnight eel session for a long long time on the other one. Recent summers seeing me on the way home well before first light after my eel sessions.

The next jobs were to get the bedchair and brolly sorted out so I could be on the rods quickly, then get the kettle on. Water out, teabag and sugar in the cup, milk to hand, stove screwed to the gas bottle and kettle at the ready. Bugger. I'd taken my big tackle box out of the rucksack. Which vital piece of equipment was missing?? The lighter...

I searched high and low hoping I'd have one stashed in one of the rucky's pockets, or in the tackle box I had with me. I considered shorting out a battery with some trace wire in the hope it would glow hot enough to light the gas, such was my desperation. Fear of an explosive catastrophe quashed that idea! Thankfully the overcast meant the night was warm and a little muggy, so drinking cold water or milk wouldn't be too unbearable. One thing the lack of a light did do was decide when I'd pack up in the morning - shortly after it was light enough to see what I was doing without my headtorch.

Right on cue the first run came shortly before ten. Had the sky been clearer I'm sure it would have come a bit later, particularly given the clear water. This run was dropped but signalled the start of sporadic action with short take, bleeps and twitches filling the gaps between full blooded runs that occurred almost hourly. As usual these runs were either missed, ended with a pinched bait or, in one instance, resulted in a fish on - that came off taking the bait with it. Every bit of action was to the squid. When I missed the one o'clock run I thought that would be my lot until the hour before sunrise. Sure enough when I nodded off I wasn't disturbed until twenty five to four, a hint of light in the sky.

To my amazement my strike was met with sold resistance and a writhing feeling coming up the braid and through the rod to my hand. I kept the pressure on and let the eel swim backwards against the well bent rod while I used my free hand to get my headtorch on and lit and the landing net into position. Then I cranked the fish in. As soon as it's head appeared I could see it was a reasonable fish. Maybe not a three, but getting there.

The single hook was easily removed from the bottom jaw and the eel slipped into the weigh sling, the scales proving me right in my prediction. Half a pound short. Everyone else I meet who fishes for eels or catches them by accident gets two pounders all the time, yet they don't come my way with the same regularity and I class them as worth photographing. I guess I'm easily pleased, and usually have a cup of tea to celebrate my small victory. I settled for milk and a Nutrigrain bar for a pre-breakfast snack this time.

Try as I might I couldn't get back to sleep. The sun was on its slow way up, not putting much brightness through the grey clouds. I'd call it quits around five. Or I would have done if the squid hadn't started to speed away again. It was back to striking at ghosts though. But tempting enough for me to give it another half hour, during which time the worm rod saw it's first attention. The couple of twitchy indications proved to be something removing the worms from the hook when I came to wind the rig in.

I hadn't been back home long when it started to rain. Only light rain, but it was the time I'd have been starting to pack up. Something good had come from leaving the lighter at home after all.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Full Circle

For some unknown reason the members of The Pikers Pit forums voted for me to write the 100th article for The Pike Pool blog which features contributions from forum members.

I decided to write a  brief look back at my piking life which you can read here.

Nostalgia ain't what it used to be!