Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Tentative tenching and shorter rods

Against my better judgement I spent the last few hours of daylight tench fishing yesterday. It was just that with places starting to look tenchy it seemed like a good enough way to kill some time. With my latest set of tench rods still drying I made do with the pair I used last time out - complete with the same rigs, and in the case of the fake corn the same baits!

I'll blame the easterly direction of the wind for my lack of success. Something bubbled just off one of my baits, and small fish were topping. Maybe I had been in with a chance. The hawthorn is starting to bud, but it'll be a while yet before the blossom's out. By which time my new rods will be ready for action. Actually two of them are ready this morning but I don't want to try them out too soon.

It's not that I need new tench rods. The 1.75lb Interceptors are as near perfection as I can imagine. However I have developed an eleven footer fetish. Eleven foot rods always feel better balanced than twelves. They are lighter to carry, and take up less room in the car too. In practice, for all but the longest casts, they are more than sufficient. What's not to like? So I'm trying to find a blank which matches the Interceptor's action, but a foot shorter. If I can I'll have all bases covered at eleven foot for my close range fishing. Which is mostly what I do these days.

For roach, perch, rudd, small-river chubbing and anything of that sort, I have my Chimera Avons in 1.25lb. Simply can't fault them. For eels, close range barbel and a bit of zander fishing (should I do either again),  and carp (should I have some form of mental aberration) there are my recently rebuilt (yet again) P-2s. Piking is covered by the P-5s which hardly ever leave the quiver. The only gap to fill is between the Avons and the P-2s for tench and bream with feeders and leads around the 2oz mark.

Having played around with the 11ft 1.75lb Torrix a bit last summer I found it just a tad too stiff in the butt for my taste. When I built a 2lb version up for customer earlier this year it felt like a different rod altogether. Less tippy (much less tippy than the 12ft 2lb Torrix which I ditched after one summer's use in favour of the Interceptor) and not much more powerful overall. The slightly stiffer tip making the curve come further into the butt, perhaps. Only fishing with a rod tells the true tale, so that's the blank I'm trying out this summer.

The build I've chosen is based on what I did on my Avon's. Ultra matt blanks, cut down reel seats with matt carbon inserts, split Duplon grips, black plastic butt button, six Alconite rings plus tip (25 - 8) rover style, keeper ring on left of rod. All lettering under the blank except for 'DLST',  whipped in black with metallic purple tipping at the handle to break the black monotony without being too obvious. They look the part. I hope they live up to my expectations.

Waiting to be rigged up.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

So much for that plan

Sabbatical. What sabbatical?! A sunny afternoon temped me out to Goat Lake for a try at the roach. After a wander round to see what had changed since I last fished there in August I carted the gear to the same swim I roach-fished last time, about twelve months ago, and began casting around with an empty feeder to check the weed situation. As expected it was starting to grow and was quite thick in places, needing quite a pull to free the rig. Heading to deeper water found less weed but I wasn't sure that I fancied it there. Having found a line where it seemed reasonably clear in the original swim I started to set up stall.

Nothing much had changed in my approach. One block end feeder and two open enders. Two rigs fishing a single red  maggot each and the other a sleeper with two hair rigged Sonu Band Ums for a laugh.

It was four thirty, warm in the sun but cool in the only shaded spot on the bank - where I was fishing... After half an hour I was losing hope. My heart wasn't in it for some reason. I ate my pork pies, drank some tea and thought about packing up around six at the latest. A sparrowhawk swooped over the water and up into a tree behind me. Chiiffchaffs and chaffinches sang their spring songs. It was a lovely afternoon turning to evening and I felt like I was wasting it. Rummaging around in my rucksack I found Fred. No sooner had I put him on watch than the middle alarm began to bleep and the rod top pull up. I lifted into what felt like a reasonable roach.

All thoughts of heading for home evaporated as the silvery flank flashed a few feet from the landing net before I managed to slide the fat fish into its folds. On the scales the plump and near-perfect fish went over a pound and a quarter. Well worth coming for.

With renewed enthusiasm I began recasting at more frequent intervals. Not every cast was landing clear, and I always wound in to find stringy pale-green silk weed on the rigs. Recasting regularly was a good idea to make sure the rigs were clean most of the time. After a second, sub-pound fish to the middle rod I swapped the maggot feeder to an third open end job.Which seemed to make a difference. The mix of groundbait, 2mm pellets and hemp must have had more allure than the maggots which were surely burying themselves in the silkweed.

A couple of fish were hooked but lost when the feeder fouled weed on the way in. There were a few single bleeps to each rod too. Quite often an indication would come soon after the feeder had settled and the bobbin set. Had the bottom been clearer I'd possibly have been better off recasting even more frequently - clearing the weed off the rig every time was a pain though. I'm beginning to think that catapulting groundbait and fishing a straight lead might not be a bad approach here too. That way I could keep the feed going in more frequently without as much hassle. Then again I might be leaving a ig in a load of weed for longer. It's those blasted swings and roundabouts again.

The third, and final, fish landed was not so well filled as, out but longer than, the first, and still managed to weigh an ounce heavier. This is just like my chub fishing used to be. Long slim fish and short fat ones - but never long porkers! It's nice to catch decent size roach without too many missing scales, though, and especially without the cormorant damage some showed last time I fished the lake.

The sunset saw me getting some benefit from it's heat at last. Despite numerous fry dimpling and flipping on the surface as the light began to weaken bites had dried up. I eventually packed up with fifteen or more minutes of daylight remaining. After a despondent start the session had worked out okay and I walked back to the car warm and happy with my efforts.

Monday, April 14, 2014


April is usually a funny month for fishing. Pike have either spawned or are spawning and tench can be spasmodic - they also haven't piled on the weight yet... So this year I'm taking a break from fishing until the hawthorn begins to bud. That way I might not burn myself out trying to catch tench before they start feeding in earnest. I might have a dabble for anything-that-eats-maggots one evening before then, or I might not. I've got work to do and 'life in general' to contend with and the dreaded Easter weekend is almost upon us, so a break from fishing is in order.

Waters are starting to show signs of spring though. Green reedy shoots in the margins and already a few pads up on top where it's shallow. There's a warmth to the evening light full of a promise of summer. The carpers are out of hibernation too!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Last chance

The great British weather got the better of me today. The torrential overnight rain gave way to sunshine and tempted me out for one last bash at the pike before digging out the tench (or roach) rods. Hardly had I got set up than the sunshine disappeared and the easterly blew cold enough to make me put my woolly hat over the top of the baseball cap I was wearing to shade my eyes! I was starting to regret leaving the bunny suit behind.

One bait went out to a reed edge, the other was dropped in the margin and after less than an hour that bobbin dropped off and line trickled off the spool. There was nothing there and the bait looked unmarked. A liner? Possibly.

Partly to beat the drag from the wind I had removed my floats and was fishing legered baits to drop-offs. This also allowed me to relax without the constant need to keep checking floats. I was in a chilling out mood. So chilling that I'd put my waterproof jacket on to warm me up!

I got itchy feet syndrome after a couple of hours and made a move. This was the cue for the weather to take it out on me one more time. I'd left my brolly at home. So the rain came as no surprise. Only light drizzle, thankfully. At least I'd put my overtrousers on so I was dry enough. Again I got an indication to one rod after an hour or so. A slack liner that once more was probably the result of a fish swimming into the line.

It ended up as one of those sessions when I was willing it to go dark so I could pack up. That wasn't until three or four swallows had flown low over the water and settled in the reeds next to the first swim I'd fished. I bet they were wishing they'd stayed in Africa as they struggled to find a steady perch. Blackbirds, thrushes and all manner of other birds were singing their territorial songs at dusk, while magpies cackled and a tawny owl hooted. With the clocks going forward tomorrow it'll be gone eight on Sunday when darkness comes making after-tea roach, tench and bream sessions on the cards. Where are my maggot tubs?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Spring is here

Thursday afternoon was a blank in perfect conditions. The weekend was spent otherwise engaged. Monday and Tuesday saw me busy with tasks which were neither enjoyable nor financially productive. Today saw a long awaited delivery of blanks arrive on a glorious morning. By four in the afternoon glues were drying and was twiddling my thumbs until I could stand it no longer. That strange autopilot kicked in and I found myself getting baits from the freezer and putting rods in the car.

As if in a trance I was soon reversing the car loading process to the sound of two male chaffinches trying to outdo each other in song. Nearing the swim I had in mind I heard the incessant chiffing and chaffing of the my first summer migrant. It had just turned four forty-five when the first lamprey head splashed down and I tightened the line to cock the float. A few seconds later the second lamprey head was in position to the right.

There was a stiff, but warm, breeze blowing off my back ruffling the water. Reed buntings were audible but invisible, great tits were chinking in the distance. Early spring doesn't look much different to late winter. The trees are still mostly bare, a few tentative green buds breaking open on the willows, the reeds still dry and straw-like, no weed evident on the water's surface. The wind may be warm but the bunny suit is still required as dusk closes in. In our imaginationst spring is almost as warm as summer. In reality it's almost as cold as winter!

After thirty-five minutes the left hand float dipped from sight and line ticked off the baitrunner. It was still peeling steadily when I picked the rod up and wound down. I felt a bump and that was it. I chopped the lamprey head down and recast it. At the second attempt it hit the spot. I moved the other bait to the left-hand margin. That being a signal for a pike to strike in the spot I'd moved it from...

The biggest difference between winter and spring is the number of hours of daylight. By now I'd have been on my way home in mid-winter. There was still over an hour and half of daylight left. Over an hour and a half of pike catching time. I hoped the first fish might come back, that the jack which had struck might not have been satiated. It was not to be. I was glad of my head torch on the way back to the car as it allowed me to see, and avoid squashing, toads making their way to the water. Spring is here. I'll try to have at least one more crack at the pike before digging out the plastic casters and grains of plastic corn. But first there's work to do.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Pond and pike

Those noisy frogs have been busy fornicating. As a consequence there is a lot more frog spawn in my pond than last year. I thought it was all over and done with at the weekend, but when the sun shone today they popped their heads above water and started chasing each other around all over again!

Usually they all crash dive when I set foot anywhere near the pond, but a couple didn't today. Instead they tried the 'if I don't move I'm invisible' trick, allowing me to take some snaps with my new 'fishing camera'. The other day when all the frogs had done their disappearing act when I approached the pond I caught a fleeting glimpse of a newt wriggling down into the weed. One of these days I might get a decent sighting of one. They're elusive beggars. Unless they're dead...

Like most compacts my new camera is pretty good for close up stuff, and the results are perfectly adequate for blogging. It was due a chance to photograph a pike or two.

The sunshine was so warm through the back windows that I was down to a t-shirt for the first time this year. Despite the moaning cold weather pikers saying their seasons are over the day seemed pikey to me, and I thought there was a chance of a pre-spawn pike or two. Out of the sun there was still a chill. With it only going dark after six thirty there was no rush to get the gear together and I hit the water around three thirty. I had packed a different lure rod this time. I had a feeling I'd been bumping pike off because the rod was too soft. I'd been using the lighter Trickster because it was the only version I have (having sold my original heavier model) and it fitted in the quiver neatly. A suitable rod for smaller crankbaits and spinnerbaits but not my ideal jerkbait rod. I broke out the trusty Axiom 7013.

I started out chucking the inevitable perch pattern Squirrely in a few swims before moving to one where I thought the deadbaits might have  a chance. Before settling down I had a cast past some snags and almost at the last minute a lively scamp nailed the lure - and stayed hooked! With the camera living in my fleece pocket it was simple to take a couple of 'action' shots. With a blank averted I put the lure rod away and sat back to soak up the sun.

Despite my confidence the swim I'd chosen didn't produce anything in the first hour. It was decision time. Head for a banker swim or try a fresh one. The bankers have got boring so, with nothing to lose, I moved to a swim I hadn't fished before and chucked the smelt out to the reed line and dropped the lamprey head in the margin to my left. I was just about catching the last rays of the setting sun, a notably cooler feel in the air, whiling the time away playing with the camera taking pictures of the lure rod propped up against a bush and checking the floats between shots. Hang on. There's a float missing!

To my amazement the smelt float was on the move. When I picked the rod up the lie was slack so I flicked the baitrunner off, turned the handle to engage the reel properly and wound down. What happened next was a a bit of a surprise. Before I could raise the rod to drive the steel home line was stripped from the clutch! What had I hooked?

The run didn't last long and I was soon pumping in a decen feeling fish that started to spin. Was it a big early eel? Not so. Even more confusing was the small pike head that popped up. It looked like it might scrape ten pounds, but it felt heavier.

As soon as I lifted the net and saw the pike side on it was obvious where the confusion lay. It was as fat as a pig. Built like a trout water porker. I had a pre-weighing guess that the scales confirmed. Fourteen pounds and an ounce or two. Just like the jack it was carrying a few leeches.

Shortly after recasting with a fresh smelt, and while messing about with the camera again, I heard a baitrunner whirr briefly. I checked the smelt float but that was stationary. There were ripples coming from the margin float. That was all. I left it a few minutes before checking the bait. I couldn't see any teeth marks on it. A dropped take from a rooter? Or maybe a liner from a margin cruiser looking for a place to spawn? I'll never know.

The sun set forming a thin band of orangey red low in the western sky. To the east half a moon had risen high in a clear and starry sky. Time to pack up. On the road back home the gritting wagon was out. Cool nights and leeched-up, lard-bellied pike, make me think there's still time for a few more before the bream and tench rods get an airing.