Saturday, October 03, 2015

All carped out

It's that transitional time of year, when summer fishing is over but winter fishing doesn't feel quite right. I know I could go piking on the drains, but they don't fire me with enthusiasm. Hitting the river for barbel is another option that doesn't appeal. These last two weeks of late summer days with temperatures as high as we had during high summer have confused matters even more. Yesterday there were a couple of swallows over the water and an early morning chiffchaff was calling, yet five whooper swans dropped in for a swim around and come evening the pink foots were nosily flighting in. No wonder I've been confused. That's my excuse for trying to catch carp.

An evening up to eleven session produced one line bite on the difficult lake. There might be twenty five fish in the place, most of them not worth catching. Even the real carp anglers aren't having any success. I think that's why I've been having a go. The challenge. But I can only stand so many blanks and have been visiting the Railway Pond where the challenge is to avoid the carp. I'm succeeding! The last two hours are the best chance to avoid other anglers too. The first session ended with a screaming run and another of the pond's skinny flappy things. However, I did notice some carp behaviour that I thought might push the odds in my favour next time.

With work out of the way and yet another red hot afternoon under way, Thursday saw me setting off for an overnighter, intending to stop until after lunch. I left it a bit late and only got the baits out by six twenty. Two grains of fake corn over a bed of hemp and corn to the left margin, a spot I've seen fishy activity on a few occasions. A boilie/glow corn cocktail with a stringer out to nowhere and a 14mm pop-up over pellets close in straight over the now-dying weed edge.

My usual regime for bivvy sessions is to restrict them to the months when it goes dark at nine. I can't abide the long dark hours.  Right now it's dark before eight, and although the days have been hot the temperature soon drops with the sun. Six thirty and it's fine out in a t-shirt, by seven thirty it's almost time for the bunny suit!

The moon was just past full but still bright enough to cast long shadows as it rose, directly opposite me. Then the mist rose over the water and hung around all night. By daybreak it had turned into an all-enveloping fog covering the low-lying land all around. It didn't burn off until gone nine in the morning when the heat returned.

The alarms had remained silent all night long. Not a liner or anything. There had been fish topping at dusk and some noisy surface splashing from small fish during the night. No signs of carp, tench or bream though. The only indication I had was at quarter to eight when the cocktail bobbin dropped back a few inches. I waited for it to drop further or to fly up to the butt ring, but it didn't. After the bacon butty breakfast washed down with a mug of black tea (I forgot the milk...) I had a recast of all three rods. It was no wonder the corn hadn't been touched. The rig was tangled. Bugger.

It was tempting to sit it out all day, but by two I'd had enough. The thought of getting a bend in a rod, even from a flappy thing, was itching away in my head. Back home for a brew with milk then trim the gear down and snatch the last couple of hours at the pond, then call at the chippy after I packed up. Simple plan.

I don't know why I decided to band the two rods, landing net and banksticks together instead of using a quiver. I find it an awkward way to carry stuff. But that was what I did. The swim I fancied was vacant, so the rods were soon set up and the sticks in place. Then it was time to set up the landing net. That was odd. I had the net and half of the pole, but not the essential part. The part with the spreader block. I retraced my steps to the car hoping it might just have slipped out. Nope. Not in the car either. I'd have to manage without.

Thankfully, being rubbish at catching carp, the net problem didn't need to be overcome. There were a few liners, and some half-hearted tugs (probably from over ambitious baby carp) to make the alarm bleep. Nothing positive though. I mostly spent the time watching migrant hawkers hawking, hovering and chasing each other until it got too chilly for them. By which time the starlings and geese were flocking in to the safety of the mere and its reedbeds for the night. It's quite a spectacular sight, and sound, when the pinks fly in. There's something about the sight and sound of thousands of pinks that evokes feelings of lonely and wild places.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

It comes but once a year

Last week I actually managed the impossible. With the PAC's annual convention being held in Kettering last Saturday I had all my stuff ready to go by Thursday evening! All except the carrier bags, but I didn't realise that until I was in Northamptonshire...

Such pre-planning meant I could sneak out for a couple of hours catching suicidal carp at the Railways Pond. Naturally enough I didn't catch any. The weather had changed a bit since the previous visit and the pond was busy. A combination of the weather and boots on the ground could have been the cause of my failure. Or I might just have been in the wrong spot - the right one having a goon with a pole in it when I arrived. It was a pleasant enough two hours though. I might even sort out a set of gear to leave ready to snatch similar two hour sessions for the future. Although how the place will fish come winter I dunno.

An early start and a three hour drive saw me arrive at the venue for the PAC show in good time. Before the doors had opened in fact. The place is much better to get in and out of than the Ricoh Arena where the show was last year. And no officious jobsworths to contend either. Far more laid back and friendly.

It was a good day, with the usual suspects turning up, but a long one.All the usual suspects turned up and I grabbed a few photos of some of them.

Six hours driving in total and the rest of the day on my feet takes it out of an old codger. Well meaning plans to get the rods out in anger on Sunday fell by the wayside. I'd surely manage an evening or overnight session later in the week, especially given the weather forecast? Nope. Long awaited rod fittings turning up, plus other deliveries to wait in for, kept me away from the water. Maybe, just maybe, I'll get the roach rods out over the weekend.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

A slippery slope

That one more eel session went predictably. Plenty of runs that were dropped or missed until I managed to hook one on a piece of squid cast well out from the bank. It wasn't big enough to get weighed. Par for the course with my eeling luck. What I did find odd was that all the takes were coming to the squid. A perch tail in teh margins was ignored completely. When I swapped the squid over to the perch's head, thinking a tougher bait might stand up to the attention of tiny eels better, the takes to that rod dried up. At least I got plenty of sleep after that change of tactics!

For my next trick I thought I'd try an evening up until midnight for carp. Why I've suddenly got it in my head to fish for those stupid, ugly, things I really don't know. Partly it's because I know trying for roach with maggots will see me plagued with bootlace eels at this time of year, partly because it's too early for the pike where I want to fish for them, and also because I can't be arsed driving to the river for barbel. It goes without saying that a couple of liners weren't enough to keep me interested after the dew soaked the grass and I was on my way home by eleven.

A few days later I was itching to get a bend in a rod so I headed back to the Railway Pond in search of carp. It took all of half an hour fishing large, lone hookbaits (in order to avoid the suicidal potential livebaits) for the pop-up to get taken.

Shortly after the other bait was taken by something that gave a short pull on the baitrunner then stopped as I picked the rod up. Whatever it was I'd hooked wasn't doing much. Flappy things tend not to fight too hard in the rivers, this one was no different in still water. A very skinny chub was soon lying in the net. Towards dusk I got my first sight of pink foots flying in to roost. Their call always has a wintry air to it. Which was at odds with the sight of a brown hawker catching midges up around the alder tops.

While there's still plenty of warmth in the sun through the middle of the day it is going cool quickly come evening, and it takes a while to warm up again after sun up. Saturday's early start for the PAC Convention in Kettering was a case in point. I put the heater on in the car for the first time in months to warm my feet up! But I had cold air blowing in for the start of the journey home and even by the time I reached the village chippy I didn't need to put my sweatshirt on. Even so, overnight sessions won't be much of a feature of my fishing for much longer this year. Long cold nights are not my idea of fun. Mind you, if I fish them for carp I'll be guaranteed plenty of sleep...

Tuesday, September 08, 2015


Last week I gave up a short eel session an hour early because nothing was happening apart from a bad moon rising. It felt like a waste of time for some reason. Following that work got in the way as I started to play catch-up after some long awaited rings showed up.

Last night I snapped and found myself in that automatic pilot mode putting the gear together for an overnighter. It just happened. I was on my way as soon as I'd finished my tea. The original idea was to forget about the eels and get a good night's sleep tucked up in my sleeping bag while the rods pretended to fish for carp. But at the last minute I threw the eel rods and deadbait bag in the back of the car.

There wasn't much time to get set up and again the auto-pilot kicked in and the eel rods got cast out. A roach tail down the edge and a head section which, when hooked through the bottom jaw and out the skull, withstands casting better further out. I also used a slightly bigger deadbait than usual. A rod baited with two grains of fake corn got dropped in eh edge on the other side of the swim to the margin eel rod. Then it was up with the brolly and out with the kettle.

After a hot day the sky was clear and the temperature set to fall once the light went from the sky. Before darkness had arrived the roach tail had been pinched. The silhouette of a tawny owl flew over the lake, bats and moths flitted around the brolly front, and I put my bunny suit on before it got chilly. It was ten o'clcok when something picked up the margin bait again. Another missed run. I'd barely sat down after recasting a fresh bait when the other rod was away. This time I connected with an obvious eel.

In the light from my headtorch it looked to be a chunky fish, but it wasn't pulling too hard. A broad head and wide mouth, fat behind the head but quite short and thinning towards the tail. My hopes of a three were fading. They faded completely once the eel was in the sling and weighed. The same weight as the last eel I caught. Those three pounders know how to avoid my baits. The rest of the night progressed in usual eel fishing style. Runs being missed every time I started to nod off. Most of them were coming to the bait out in open water. Which is something I've noticed both here and on the water I fished last summer. So much for eels scavenging in the margins.

The tawny owl flew back over the lake and perched in the tree behind me where it started hooting. Thankfully that didn't last too long. Daylight isn't arriving until almost six these mornings, and after a long lull in the runs another materialised as the sky began to lighten. I gave the eel baits another half hour then swapped over to 'carp' rigs - without expecting any action. There had been no signs of carp or tench before dark or during the night, and none as the sun rose. The night had remained still with a heavy mist rising off the water and only clearing completely by about eight. At least there hadn't been much of a moon, nor any signs of rats.

With more warmer days forecast this week, the nights warming too, I might have one more eel session before calling it a summer.

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.