Friday, August 11, 2017

It'll come in handy one day

Loading the car the other day I noticed one of my long banksticks had poked a ghole through the base of my Korum quiver. I find it easier to put the sticks, along with my landing net and brolly (when required) in the big pocket of my quiver. The bankstick pocket and the rear mesh pocket are both a bit tight. Anyway, something had to be done.

What I needed was some sort of tough plastic tub of a size to just fit the base of the pocket. Now my garage is full of stuff that normal people would have thrown out years ago. I tried one of the Vitalite tubs, the original round ones which I used to use as impromptu maggot tubs when I was a kid and last week's maggots in the proper bait tub had turned into a buzzing mass of flies! I thought this was a good fit but on the river I realised the reason my landing net pole was sticking out above the rods was because it hadn't gone all the way down. Something else was required.

There on the shelf of ancient tackle, along with two old maggot tubs and my first float rod, was a bucket with some old floats, a swing tip and angled rubbers, a couple of bread punches which had come free with Angling Times or some such and some swimfeeders I'd found years ago. In my teens this had been my worm gathering bucket. It used to have a lid, but that appears to be long gone.

The handle was popped off and the bucket slid inside the quiver. A perfect fit! The downside will be that it will collect water that runs off a wet net, or brolly. I suppose I could make some small drain holes in the base of the bucket, but I'll leave it for now. All quivers ought to have solid bases to the bankstick and brolly pockets. Although then they wouldn't wear out so quickly...

Thursday, August 10, 2017

I can see clearly now

This summer really hasn't managed to make its mind up. Which has meant the river going up and down like... You think of an analogy! A week ago it was up and rising as the rain continued to fall. If I wasn't out of touch with its moods and flows I'd have made a better job of things and not moved into a swim I should have started in as the water rose. I have no excuses for blanking. It was incompetence.

Yesterday evening saw me back fishing a river that was falling slowly having dropped and risen since my previous visit. This time my choice was improved. Although I seem to have forgotten some of the lessons I learned years back. Such as where the snags are in a certain swim. After losing a lead, and then a hook and lead when picking up the rod to deal with a take found everything solid, it came back to me that you don't cast upstream from this spot. That take was yet again to the rod fishing three 8mm crab pellets.I was beginning to wonder if the barbel have lost their taste for what used to be my favourite boilie which I was fishing on the other rod. I'd yet to have a take on them.

Fitting new isotopes to my rods at the start of the week had been worthwhile. Even before it was fully dark I could see them glowing brightly. I gave my rod rest heads another spray of white paint while I was at it. Much easier to locate in the dark now.

At ten thirty or so the same rod tip gave a series of short taps. At first I thought the fish was an eel as it felt to be wriggling. Then it felt like it had dropped off. Then it came back! Seeing it in the torchlight, along with a couple of bats flying around the line, I thought it was a small chub but as it slid to hand I realised it wasn't. Three 8mm pellets aren't what I'd set out to catch roach with. If it was a roach and not a roach/chub. I didn't bother weighing it, whatever it was.

As I was slipping the fish back I heard the baitrunner on the downstream rod whirring slowly. The barbel do still like the boilies. Just as well as I have a full bag of them to use up. I am well out of practice at guessing how big barbel are. This one bulldogged and I was sure it was going to be my biggest of the season. It turned out to be the smallest. Just.

The moon began to rise casting an eerie light on the trees and cows behind me. Owls hooted. The placid swan paid me a visit. I think it likes company being the only trumpeter on the river. Firstly it dabbled in the margins under my rods, then it waddled up the bank and began to graze a little, but mostly just stand there. Nice to see it's still around. Unlike mute swans it's not a pesterer.

I had a few chub rattles to both rods, but that was my lot. Lead losses diminished as I got my casting bearings.There was a dew forming on my gear as I packed away at twelve fifteen and set off home. Not long after taking the turning out of the valley my headlights caught a lean fox jumping through a hedge and speeding across the road.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

The easy option

After one barbel session I remembered why I found barbel fishing so appealing. It's not just that they are easy to catch and pull hard, they're convenient. There's no need to get up early or stop all night. barbel fishing can be slotted in after tea and still be home in time to get a good night's sleep.

The baits are convenient too. Nice dry pellets and shelf-life boilies. even frozen boilies don't go soggy and drip bodily fluids all over like deadbaits do. Two rods is plenty so no need to carry heavy rod quivers. The only downside are the long walks, but not everywhere requires one.

Then there's the valley and its wildlife and plant life. Not only does the river change with the rain, the surroundings change with the seasons, and with the light. At this time of year the trees are darkened waiting to turn to their autumn colours, yet when the last rays of the setting sun strike their tops they glow as brightly as the new leaves of spring. sinking below the wooded banks the sunset can set the river itself afire.

Even with the river rushing through and well coloured a kingfisher was catching its supper last night. I was hoping that there might be a few barbel in close like the fry. The level dropped while I was there, the marginal flow becoming steadier and less swirly, but apart from two sharp chub raps to a monster bait I had no other indications.

With the light at that point where colours turn monochrome and binoculars start to become ineffective I hard a mallard making a lengthy alarm call. I'd seen a female with a late brood earlier and wondered if she was defending them against an otter. Sure enough I made out a dark snubby head moving out from the bank. A few minutes after the commotion I heard the alarm call again and saw the duck flying upstream. She must have had good night vision because I couldn't make out anything for her to scold. I did see an otter swim rapidly down with the flow in mid river about five minutes after the duck had returned to her family.

My first otter sighting on the river had come a few days earlier on another stretch. Having been away from the river for a few years this was a novelty for me. I had heard that in my time away otters have become a frequent sight for anglers, even during daylight, and are present all along the river. By many accounts the barbel fishing isn't what it was. My limited experience this season suggests that overall numbers are down. Admittedly two sessions in known areas and one on a new-to-me stretch are not much to go by. At least the average size has been reasonable,

The weekend session saw me managing to get the swim I wanted despite there being four other anglers on the length. The level was up a touch when I set up and fell gradually throuh out my few hours fishing. I had put the big leads in my lead bag before setting off, intending to swap over the lighter ones as I settled in to the swim. I emptied the rucksack to no avail. I'd left them behind. Luckily I'd left a box of 'eel' leads in the rucky. Not many and only a couple of ounces, but they'd have to do should I lose the ones already on the rods.

The usual script for this area is to cast as far across river as possible. That's what the other anglers wer doing, dropping their leads close to the far margin. Not wanting to risk my light leads failing to hold and bounce into snags I settled for casting to mid river with one rod and about three rod lengths out with the other. This wasn't as futile a plan as it might seem as I knew from past experience that when carrying extra water, and also after dark, barbel will move into shallower water in this sort of area.

It was a lovely warm night, just right for midges to bite. if it hadn't been for one of the anglers upstream being scared of the dark and shining a powerful torch along the far bank, behind him and in my direction, it would have felt like being miles from anywhere. I didn't let that annoyance affect me and remained confident.

Shortly before eleven the tip of the downstream rod, fishing three 8mm pellets in shallower water sprang back as the lead lifted positively from the river bed. It did it again and I was in no doubt that weed wasn't the culprit. After a dogged fight the barbel was in the net and the guessing game was played. It had felt doubleish in the flow, but looked eightish. It was not-quire-nineish on the scales. The half moon had been bright but disappeared behind cloud when I called it a night an hour later.

Friday, July 07, 2017

An evening out

Despite hearing tales of woe about the barbel population on the river having been eaten by otters I've been getting the urge to pay them a visit recently. A change being as good as a rest I put some gear together after the cricket finished for the day and when the Archers were over I set off for an easy access stretch.

There were signs that the swims had been fished, but no anglers about. The path through the vegetation was well trampled too, but the nettles still managed to sting my bare arms as I wandered the stretch to select a swim. The one I settled into was chosen mainly from a comfort perspective, combined with ease of access to the water should I have to return a fish or two.

There were sand martins feeding their young on the wing, a sign that summer is getting ready to turn. The leaves on the trees are already darkened and meadowsweet in bloom.

Knowing the swim from previous visits I was careful to ensure the leads didn't move as I tightened to them. An old standby bait of Sonu crab Pellet-Os, three on the hair, went on the close in downstream rod and one and a half boilies went on the upstream farther out rod. In my haste I'd picked up a tub of my favourite bream/tench/carp boilies instead of the ones I prefer for barbel. They'd have to do. Not that I think a barbel would turn it's barbules up at them. It was mesh bags of mixed pellets on the hooks. Nothing fancy required.

With the baits out I played a waiting game. No frequent recasting. Sit back, tie up more pellet bags, and wait for the light to fade replacing sand martins with bats.

When it was time for a pre-dusk recast the downstream rod was snagged solid and needed re-rigging. Somehow the hooklink got tangled in the undergrowth and ended up with a knot in t. When I'd cut the knot out and retied it the hooklink was shorter than I'd have liked. It'd do.

The margins were alive with fry and there was a good hatch of flies on. So much so that I thought it was raining. I wonder if the presence of otters thinning out the barbel population will see a resurgence of roach and dace? The reports I've heard suggest this might be the case.I doubt that will draw anglers away from the muddy puddle commercials. people have got used to level banks or platforms and parking behind their swims.

It had gone half ten when the downstream rod stabbed down a couple of times then hooped over. There was one barbel in the river! Although it pulled hard and tried to run across the river it didn't stand a chance as it couldn't manage to pull any line from the drag. The rod spent most of the fight in an inverted 'U' as it absorbed the runs and lunges of what was feeling like a reasonable fish.

I managed to get the fish in the net but failed to tempt the lead to join it. Instead the lead slid down the slackened line and got stuck in the marginal rocks. I had to pull for a break to get the fish ashore! My out-of-practice guess for the barbel's weight was a pound light. A quick snap on the mat and she was slipped into a small slack to recuperate. Then I retackled and recast.

 By the time both rods were fishing again it was dark, the isotopes on my rod tips not glowing as brightly as they used to. Twelve years or so looks like time to replace them. There was broken cloud in the sky passing in front of the full moon and a hint of mist up the valley. It was a mild and still night. That didn't stop the valley's herds of slugs sliming over my unhooking mat and even onto a tub of pellets in my rucksack. Slugs must have  a well developed sense of smell.

As this was just a taster session I was going to pack up at midnight no matter what. When I did I spent a minute or two ridding everything of the slimy pests. They were on the mat, the rucksack, my chair and sling. Two had even got inside the mesh pocket of the sling. I expect that's where they'll end their days.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Double frustration

It's unlike me to rush building rods but this year I've got ahead of myself and made a start on a few builds only for my customers to change their minds. Throw in a cancellation and a cock-up and I have a few fully built rods for sale. The list can be found here: I won't split matching sets, but any rods ordered from the list during July will be carriage paid.

I was concerned that starting my eel fishing early this year might lead me to burn out before high summer arrived. I think it has. My last two sessions have resulted in one small eel and a blank. neither result encouraging me to have another try. Things are so bad I'm almost thinking of having a try for the vermin again! Or maybe I'll get some bream fishing done? Neither option is really filling me with enthusiasm.

With the rod building supply situation as dire as ever I have a stack of blanks sitting idly awaiting either reel seats or rings. Of the dozen I've put some cork on only two can be finished off until something arrives. I feel like I'm banging my head against a brick wall...

In an attempt to get round this blockage I ordered some rings from the USA. While I was browsing the website I bulked out the order by adding some stuff that isn't available at all in the UK. One of these was a spool of cord sold for wrapping around rod blanks to form grips. I'm not sure if it's an aesthetic that would work on our sort of specimen rods. As an experiment I've tried it as a grip on one of my landing net poles along with a colour combo of thread I quite like.

The first test match starts tomorrow. That might perk me up. Or not...

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Hot days, short nights

I've never been a hot weather person. And the current hot weather is melting what little drive I have to do anything. My 'can't be arsed' quotient has reached an all time high! The shortest mights of the year haven't helped my enthusiasm for either side of sunset sessions either. No sooner has it got properly dark than it's time to get to bed or risk stopping all night with no sleep. It's no wonder I usually leave the eels alone until July when the nights start to draw in a little.

All that aside the evenings and nights, when it's cooled down somewhat are great to be out in. Even cloudless skies make for atmospheric sunsets that seem to last for hours. What I have noticed on both of my latest eel sessions is that runs are coming later. Not just later by the clock but later by the sun and stars. There has been a little interest in my baits in the half hour before dark, but it's picked up over an hour after the light has gone as much as it will go before dawn. This doesn't help me get home for sleep.

I'd had a few missed and aborted takes before I started to pack up at twelve thirty on the first session, then I foul hooked a small eel, which slimed the leader good and proper. While I was sorting the mess out I had another run which I missed. If I hadn't drained the last of my bottle of pop I might have stopped a bit longer. However I did plan to start and finish later on my next session.

It was nine fifteen when the latest eel session got under way. Apart from making the tramp to the swim a little cooler it also cut out the waiting time to the start of the action. Even around ten there had been carp cruising the surface and apart from some worm nibbling the eels didn't make their presence known until eleven.

It was the usual story of twitchy takes, pinched baits, and short aborted runs. Either there are small eels pestering me or my presentation is up the Swanee. I suspect the former. While I was getting action it was sporadic. Either stick it out until late in the hope of a good one or pack in around one and get some shut eye. After missing a proper run I connected with one at twelve thirty. Not big enough to tax my new 50" landing net, or trouble the scales. But it did make me think that later might be better if I can muster the enthusiasm for an overnighter. At one I packed up and sweated my way home.