Thursday, February 11, 2016


It should have been obvious a blank was on the cards when I set off to try out some new forceps. LB from The Pikers Pit had read my blog moaning about my long forceps and recommended the ones Caimore (no affiliation) supply. They looked good and were cheap enough so I ordered a pair of the 8.5 inch scissor forceps and one of the 7 inch heavy duty. Delivery was prompt and they look and feel good.  They both have larger finger holes than my old reliable pair, which can sometimes get stuck behind a knuckle.

Not only did I have two new pairs of forceps with me I'd replaced all the leads on my rigs and put some new spares in a tackle box. My supply of 2oz bombs was almost out so I'd ordered a couple of trade packs of cheap and cheerful leads. One of 'silt' bombs and one of dumpy pears. I prefer them to the 'carp' leads you usually see in the shops because these have the swivel moulded into the lead rather than being on a loop. Which I always think is both unnecessary and tangle prone.

If all this newness wasn't enough I cast two baits out then tied on a fresh trace to the line on the third rod. that baited and cast out I sat down to make up another spare trace. I hadn't got the bottom hook twisted on the wire when I noticed the middle float had disappeared and the line fallen slack. I wound down, and wound down and wound and wound. Nothing. The bait wasn't even marked.  I began to wonder if the float really had sunk and the line gone slack. The bait had thawed out enough to make the hook hold a bit soft so I tied the bait on. Two casts later it was almost where I wanted it and I returned to my trace making.

Although conditions had been alluring while I was at home, they weren't giving me 'that feeling' sat by the water. Great tits were chinking, wrens singing their unbelievably loud song. It was nice not to be battered by the wind for a change and great to be outdoors, but the ripple on the lake wasn't looking pikey to me. I had a fiddle round and repositioned the baits. I went for a long chuck with the lamprey head and the float looked to have flown up the line. The float stop must have perished. When I tightened to the line to the bait the float didn't move. Bugger. It had come off the clip. I left the lamprey where it was and stuck a back rod rest in the ground and clipped on a drop-back bobbin. At least the wind would blow the float into the reeds across the corner and I could go fish it out with the landing net when was set for a move. Then the wind dropped to nothing.

I sat there watching the unattached float going nowhere and plotting my return at first light with a long handled landing net. Hang on. It was coming closer. There was no apparent wind but something was moving the float towards me ever so slowly. By the time I was ready for a move the float was closer still. I packed two rods away them slowly retrieved the third, making sure the line was going over the float. It did the trick and I soon had the float within netting range. I cheered up.

The next stop was a swim that I have yet to catch a pike from. It looks the part and covers similar water to a swim that has been kind to me. Baits were positioned close to pikey looking features where it surely wouldn't take long for one of the floats to rock and fall.

The only downside I have found to keeping mobile is that when I'm not catching I get the niggling doubt that staying put in one spot might have been a wiser choice. In this second swim that doubt played on my mind. I had good intentions of fishing the last hour in an off the wall spot. But doing that without a fish under my belt was a step too far and I ended up stopping until dark in the second swim. I couldn't think of a better choice. When inspiration deserts you it does it in style. I can only hope that I've got the new gear jinx out of the way and next time I'll be catching again.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Rods in stock

Last year I built up three Axiom rods - one of each - for display at the PAC convention. Why they all have short foregrips I can't remember. Anyway, they all have SiC rings and are all available for sale.

 Also available are the rods below, full details of which can be found on my Rods in Stock page.

7ft, 5-30g Harrison VHF two piece spinning rod.

12ft 1.75lb Chimera. My standard build but with ruby thread and Harrison logo.

Pair of P-1s with full Duplon handles and SiC rings (7 + tip). SOLD

One P-1 to standard cork handle build but longer foregrip.

One Sledge-Hammer 66M in brown with chestnut thread and rubberised cork butt end. SOLD

Click the pictures to enlarge them.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

That's more like it

It's been a funny old winter. Very barber's cat-ish - wet and windy. So when the wind dropped from gale force to merely strong and the sun shone it seemed rude not to squeeze in a three hour session up to dark once work was boxed off for the day. A quick check of the weather forecast saw me able to leave the repaired brolly behind with the expectation of remaining dry. Unlike last week there was just one vehicle in the car park, and the angler was nowhere near the area I fancied fishing.

I've known warm February days over the years. Warm until the sun begins to sink towards dusk that is. But I can't remember elder leaves bursting forth on the third of the month. Elsewhere hawthorn have been coming into leaf for a couple of weeks. All very odd.

Casting pike baits out at three in the afternoon and expecting to catch is not something I'd have done with much hope in years gone by. even fishing for a couple or three hours didn't seem like 'real' pike fishing, but thee days I'm more than happy to do just that provided I feel like a pike or two is on the cards. There's nothing like being confident. Something else I wouldn't have done is move my baits every fifteen minutes. Yet that was what I ended up doing in the first swim I chose. One with the north-westerly blowing straight into it.

Although chilly, the wind was putting just the right amount of ripple on the water to make it look pikey. I was moving the baits because I wasn't happy with where the floats were. It was a few minutes after recasting a mackerel tail further along a reed bed that the float began to move.

At the risk of repeating myself the fish did the usual thing of not pulling back and imitating a sack of spuds as I dragged it towards the net. It even lay reasonably peacefully in the net while I got the mat, sling and scales sorted out. Like the fish I caught last week there were leeches on its head.

When I delved into the rucksack I realised that my retention sack was at home, so I left the pike in the net and set up the tripod for a selfie. It was the first for a while that was worth the effort. I ended up rushing the pics as I'd struggled to remove the hooks. Not because it was badly hooked but because it took me a while to realise that the treble wasn't twisting free as it should have done because the bloody forceps were twisting. As soon as I got my trusty ancient, seven inch, forceps on the job the hook popped free. the bendy forceps were slung into the distance. I'd used them quite a few times without trouble so I'm not sure why they failed me this time. There must be some decent ones available.

After the chaos that the fish had caused, even though I released it in the next door swim, it felt like time for  a move.That's something else I wouldn't have done in the past. move immediately after catching a decent pike. I just seem to have itchy feet these days.

This time I was happy with where I'd placed the baits so I settled in to listen to the not-too-riveting one day match from South Africa and left the rods alone. The right hand Delkim didn't make a sound when I saw the margin float fall flat and set off away from the bank. A quick strike connected with a fish that didn't feel like a sack of spuds, but which actually pulled back! It wasn't a monster but it was a game little beggar. If the bigger fish had been fighting like this one they'd have been a lot more fun. I slid it into the sling just to make sure it wasn't a double. It wasn't quite. Not quite two hours fishing and a couple of pike banked. Happy days.

Over in the calm water small fish had been topping since I arrived. A kingfisher had flown by a couple of times. Birds were singing. It was as if all the wild creatures had woken up from a winter torpor. The whole place felt more alive than it had for months.

Another move was on the cards but something made me stay put and reposition the baits. It turned out to be a wise decision. Half an hour after the second fish, at quarter past five, I saw the far off float wobble and topple. I grabbed the landing net and promptly kicked the rod connected to the bait the fish had picked up, tangling the line round the antenna of the Delk. When I'd got the mess sorted out I was sure the fish would have felt something was amiss and dropped the bait. To my amazement the float was still on the move.

This time the strike was met by a writhing sensation. I'd heard of a few eels being caught from this place during the winter and wondered if that was what had picked up the macky tail. As I bent into it I realised that it would be a bloomin' big eel if it was. The fight turned into a cross between the potato sack and a pike. Eventually a pike that took a bit longer to slide over the net cord than the first of the afternoon was resting in the net.

Although it was clearly a bigger fish I couldn't be bothered setting up the tripod as the light was fading fast. If it was big enough for a selfie I'd put it back in the net, wind the other rods in and take my time. As it turned out, although it had the head and shoulders to be a red letter fish it was a bit on the lean side. It was big enough for me to break the net down and use the pole to steady the scales. Why people need a designated weighing bar when you can use the spreader block of a landing net head is something I don't understand. I guess some people like having loads of unnecessary junk to cart around with them.

The fish was in good nick, though it was another carrying a few leeches. I was in two minds as to packing up or sticking it out until darkness fell. In the end I hung on. My luck had run out, but at least I'd cooled down after working up a sweat. I must have been warmed up because it didn't feel as cold as the five and a half degrees the car's thermometer was showing when I got back to it.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Downs and ups

A run of blanks does nothing to encourage me to try again. Only a bit of nice weather will tempt me out when that's happening. Sunday was another of those excessively mild January days, for once without the blight of rain. I gave the roach another try. The result was the same as last time. An early bite followed by bog all. To rub salt into my wounds a carp popped its head out right in front of me. I'm sure it was laughing.

There had been a fairly strong westerly blowing putting the kind of ripple on the water that made me want to get the pike rods out. When Wednesday came around and boredom set in with varnish and glue drying and my next batch of blanks still being rolled (if I'm lucky...) the easy option was taken. The pike rods are permanently set up in a quiver. All I added was my 45 inch brolly as there was rain due in around dusk. I grabbed the carrier bag of deadbaits from my last pike session. Didn't bother filling a flask and set off.

I was aghast to see the car park full and carp anglers blighting the lake. It was almost a turn round and go elsewhere job but a quick scout revealed that the carpers were shoaled up leaving plenty of room for some semi-mobile piking.

As it turned out a mate of mine was also piking and in the swim next to one I fancied - we both had the same idea to keep the strong wind off our backs. The wind was both stronger and cooler than it had been on Sunday, but by no means cold. Conditions looked good and my friend had had some action. While chatting I mentioned that twitching baits only ever resulted in me finding snags. Why I bothered twitching one of my baits I don't know. It was snagged when I came to move it for a recast. Only in some of last summer's weed. But my point was proved. After an hour and a half I was itching for a move. The swim opposite looked inviting, despite the wind blowing straight into that bank. I upped sticks intending to give it no more than an hour.

Luckily there was a willow bush to give me some protection from the wind. It wasn't as uncomfortable as it might have been. The  bluey tail that had got snagged was in a bit of a state and not fit for a long cast, so it got dropped by the willow. A spot that usually harbours a jack. The lamprey head got the big heave and the herring tail went to my left.

I waved farewell to my mate when he left for home and thought I'd have a recast. I picked up the herring rod, gave the reel handle a couple of turns and felt something pulling back. Just as I always snag up twitching baits I never get takes on the retrieve. Being taken by surprise I snatched the bait out of the pike's gob! The bait got dropped back whence it came.

As if the rain had read the forecast it arrived spot on time. Out with the brolly and fight with it against the wind to get it opened out. This proved doubly difficult thanks to one of the ribs popping our of the hinge mechanism and jambing against the cover. Once that was sorted I shoved the pole as far into the soft ground as I could and pegged the guy ropes down. Thankfully the shower passed fairly quickly. Out of the blue there were a couple of bleeps from the sounder in my fleece pocket. The lamprey head was away.

I grabbed the net and wound down to the fish. It didn't feel particularly large, but at a reasonable distance and with the pike not fighting much on previous trips I wasn't making any firm predictions. When it rose to the surface and I could see the top treble was clear of the fish, and the bottom treble right at the tip of its snout, I was prepared for it to get off should it go through the old headshake routine. Although the head was shaken the hook stayed in place. No problem with the flying treble at the netting either.

Once lifted ashore the hook finally came free saving me the trouble of using the forceps. Lengthwise it looked a scraper double, but once more there was a flabby belly. A head covered in leeches made me think it might have just come on the feed. A quick trip into the sling and the scales showed that it would make ten pounds after a decent meal.

There was still time for a move, but a couple of takes in this spot gave me hope of something better at last knockings. The rain clouds were building too. However they scudded away to the south and a briefly colourful sunset followed.

The hoped for monster requiring the headtorch to read the scales failed to show up and I slipped and slid my way back through the mud to the car.

This morning I attacked my umbrella with a pair of pliers and a bit of stainless steel wire to replace the rivet that had popped out. That's three such repairs I've carried out on this brolly. Only five more ribs to do!

On the rod building front I've just complete a set of three P-1s with a slightly different handle configuration. It's one I didn't think I'd like the look of, but it's turned out better than anticipated.I think the collars and winding check help the look, and the gunsmoke reel seat - which matches will with an Ultra Matt blank finish and SiC rings.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Cut down to size again

I hadn't planned to get the rods out today, but when I walked along the canal on my way home from the Post Office it looked inviting. The workload that has been conspiring with the rain of late is under control at last so I could take the afternoon off. It was tempting to go and fish the 'easy' pit, roach weren't in my mind as I had no maggots, but I thought I'd take the canal pike challenge instead.

After my last session had been hampered, at least my confidence had, by my one and a half and two ounce leads burying in the black silty leaf litter on the bottom of the canal I put some one ounce bombs in a pocket of my bunny suit. Swapping to the lighter leads did the trick. Neither leads or baits were coming back festooned in horrible gunk when I wound in for a recast or move.

Despite the cut looking perfect in terms of colour and generally feeling 'right' I suffered another totally runless few hours. At least the dog walkers were less bothersome than last time. Although I was jumped on by an over-friendly Staffy at one point.

I'm starting to think that I ought to fish it like I did way back when - with paternostered baits instead of legered ones. The proverbially humble sprat used to catch me a few, as did dead roach. In fact when I think about it legered sea baits never did me much good in those days. A grand total of two pike have come my way from the canal on legered herring tails. That said, lamprey work everywhere. Maybe one lamprey on the bottom and a couple of paternostered baits is the way to go? I'll have one more try I think, then go and fail to catch roach. 

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Carrying on as I left off

New Year's Day saw me dropping in on a couple of friends having a pike session. I hadn't planned on fishing and actually had my camera gear with me to go do some photography. But on the way back to the car one swim I'd never fished looked inviting. The afternoon was warm and not too bright so I headed home, hastily swapped cameras for rods and went back to the swim. Three hours and one move later I packed up in the drizzle and went home with nothing to show for my trouble.

Today the England cricket team were facing a humiliating draw at best in the second test in South Africa when I took the maggots I'd bought before Christmas out of the fridge for a trip to Goat Lake. The sun was shining and it felt more like spring than winter. The thought of a roving pike session didn't fill me with enthusiasm, but sitting in one place replenishing feeders into dark did. A roaching I would go.

By the time I'd marked my lines, mixed my hemp and Explosive Feeder groundbait and got all three rigs in place the sun had disappeared and the distant woods were hiding behind a blue-grey haze.

As the weather hasn't turned really cold so far this winter I opted for a not too deep spot but still I wasn't too sure on my choice of swim.When I had a couple of bites in quick succession after just twenty minutes I felt more content. It was another hour before I had a clonking drop-back to the left hand rod. Nothing was hooking itself though. Then I started brining in skins without having had a bit registered. Small roach or crap rigs? As all activity dried up I'll never know.

Although I knew it would be overload for my Avons I took my new Fox Spombalike with me to try out. It works, and will come in handy this spring for getting some tench bait out. I thought the thing looked a bit like a puffer fish. So I stuck a couple of eyes on it!

With the fish apparently having buggered off I fished about half an hour into dark. It wasn't bitter cold and I almost got the urge to do an all nighter. But when I worked out how long darkness lasts at this time of year I put my next overnight session back until April....

One problem with this place is that when the wind is in a certain direction, just as the hunger pangs kick in, the local chip shop fires up it's deep fat fryers and the scent of fish and chips blows across the water. I think that contributed to me earlier than planned departure and my stopping at the other chippy on my way home.

At least I've made a start on the roach fishing. Now I know where not to fish I can try again in another area. I'll make an earlier start next time to give me longer to get some bait down and alter one of my rigs to see if that makes a difference or not. That's my intention. There's always a chance I'll do something completely different.