Friday, September 19, 2014

False starts

These last couple of weeks I've set my alarm for daft o'clock on a number of occasions only to wake up sweltering and gone back to sleep. The piking urge has been upon me but the window of opportunity between dawn and it getting too hot for a sweatshirt, never mind a fleece, has been very narrow. Three hours or less in fact. Today it was different for some reason and I was up and about before five thirty, taking my time making a flask and sorting out the rucksack.

It was cool enough for me to consider putting my overtrousers on to keep the chill out, but I decided to brave the elements.

Despite the mist trying to form over the fields and lightly rolling over the water it felt more like a spring morning than an autumnal one. Knowing that the deeper water would be free enough of weed to easily present baits that was where I headed.

Putting the gear down I reached into the bankstick pocket of the quiver and found only one had an alarm attached. A good job the rods were rigged up with floats! A mackerel tail went straight out as far as I could chuck it, a lamprey head to the right and a paternostered smelt to the left margin.

Some people don't start piking until the forts frosts reasoning that the water is too warm and the pike fight too hard for their own good. A better reason is that they are less receptive to deadbaits until then in my experience. It varies from water to water of course. Last year's efforts told me this water was one of them. Put it this way, I'd have felt more confident if the smelt had been something more lively. Alas that's not an option on this water.

I sat back and opened the flask, then got a camera out to photograph the dawn and the sunrise. It was while doing this I noticed that the mackerel float had fallen flat. I tightened down in case, but there was nothing there and on reeling in the bait there were no apparent teeth marks. Back out it went.

The day warmed rapidly. A hawker was soon on the wing. Two robins, one a juvenile, squabbled in the bush to my left, a chiffchaff sang repetitiously in a tree above, and a kingfisher perched briefly on a hawthorn bough overhanging the water. I drank more tea.

After an hour I repositioned the mackerel and lamprey baits, giving them further short moves over the following hour. Around nine I recast all the baits to different spots. Small fish were topping and bream looked to be feeding if the bubbles were anything to go by. The fleece was abandoned and my sleeves rolled up. It was turning into another hot September day.

By ten the motionless floats convinced me it was time to give up. I had expected I was making too early a start for the pike and that I should have stuck to my plan to fish for bream through this month and the next. I should really have carried on eeling, but I completely lost interest in it and the thought of bream isn't doing much for me either. If I still has it in me to spend full days sleeping on a bedchair I could pretend to fish for carp. At least that way catching nothing would be expected!

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Hammer handles

it was boredom that sent me out with a lure rod, a handful of lures and a landing net I knew I wouldn't use for an hour last night. The lake looked to be in fine early autumnal fettle. Pads starting to look frayed at the edges and some already dead and drifting. Haws bright red among yellowing leaves. A congregation of mallards in a reed-lined weedy corner. There felt to be a chance of a pike as the sun turned a rosy orange.

Needless to say the lure I clipped on was a Squirrley Burt in perch. It works, so I use it despite it having one eye! The shallows are still too choked with weed and carp anglers' lines to work a surface bait any distance, although there's no doubt there are pike in there. That sent me towards he deeper weed free areas. With plenty of lilies lining the margins it was obvious to chuck the Burt around their edges. In the third swim I tried, only giving it five or ten minutes per spot, the lure got hit by what felt like a rooter. There was a brief jagging and kiting of the lure with no weight behind it. A few more fruitless casts and I was on the move again.

I always have more confidence casting lures into sunlit water, so my hopes rose as I moved out of the shade. It was in a spot with a bit more surface weed, but with enough free water to get longer casts in, that the Burt got hit again. It was another hammer handle that managed to stay attached. So attached that I had to cut one of the trebles before I could return it.

Jacks of this size are all well and good for saving blanks, but they're a pain to unhook. With a finger under on gill plate you run the risk of getting a treble in it there being so little room to work in. With the back hook chopped up and no spares or split ring pliers with me I had to change lure. The only other Burt I had with me was a floater which needed working faster than I liked. I tried a Slippery Sam for a few fasts before clipping on a Funky Chicken spinnerbait until the sun set and the evening chill sent me back to the car. I know there are a lot of pikers who won't get the deadbaits out until there's a frost, but I might give it a go for the first few hours one morning this week. With my luck I'll hook a five pound eel.

Monday, August 25, 2014

No Mojo, Joe

I had a fruitless eel session at the back end of last month and didn't enjoy it. The lake doesn't inspire me. If it's not the moronic would-be carp anglers or the moaning matchmen it's dogwalkers and their hounds. Even after dark the place has no magic to it. I decided that the eels can be as big as you like but I'm not going to put much more time in there. With the heat still being upon us I was stuck for ideas and didn't want to start bream fishing until September.

The change in the weather last week changed my mind, and as soon as there was a dry day when I was free I got the bream gear semi-sorted out. That was yesterday. It was still t-shirt warm when I rolled up and started setting up around three in the afternoon. Brown hawkers were out in force along with a few damselflies. Swallows and one or two house martins were drinking from the lake. All around the blooms of high summer were fading, a meadowsweet had a lone flower bunch the rest having turned to seed, the leaves beginning to wither. Devil's-bit scabious and fleabane were the brightest spots of colour in the vegetation behind the swim I chose.

A couple of grains of fake corn were dropped on the edge of the pads to my right. A back-lead slid down the line and a few handfuls of pellets scattered over the bait. Then I set up the other two rods, one to fish a pellet and the other two more bits of yellow plastic, before marking their lines and that of the spod rod which I clipped up.

Bags of pellets were made up, the rigs put in them and the lot cast out. The traps set (as the carpers say) I commenced spodding out pellets. After only a few casts the retrieve seemed all too easy. I was recovering line but the spod wasn't coming towards me. When I swung in the loop of heavy mono I worked out why and watched the spod drift away on the light westerly. Perfect planning prevents piss poor performance. I had another spod in the bait bag!

I made half a dozen casts with spod number two before wondering if I was fishing close enough in to manage with a catty. It turned out that I was. A couple or more pints of pellets ended up over and around the two baits. That ought to get the bream interested.

Four and a half hours later the bobbins hadn't moved once. There was still over an hour of daylight left but I'd lost all interest. How I ever managed to do three-day sessions in one swim without a bite to show for it - and enjoy myself doing it - I can no longer understand. These days I need action on a regular basis, or to keep on the move, unless I'm to start wishing I was somewhere else. that somewhere else yesterday was at home, eating my tea. So that's where I went.

Although the weather was pleasant enough the lake seemed dead. Only a very few, very small fish were topping. There wasn't much waterfowl activity either. The water looked cloudy, as if the recent rains had coloured it up. That'll do as an excuse! It was starting to look pikey though with the hawthorns in berry and the leaves on all the trees darkening or turning to hints of autumn shades. Then again, there's a whiff of barbel in the air. I ought to be able to catch some of them in a short session. Surely?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

This Heat

I can't take much more of this glorious sun. It's sapping what little energy I have. By the time it's starting to lose its strength and I ought to be getting my act together for some eel fishing all I want to do is flop out and go to sleep.

Friday was hot and muggy, so I made the effort. I tried a change of venue, but two years away from it had seen a few changes. Maybe this weather was partly to blame for the increased weed growth, too. Either way my confidence wasn't boosted by a surprising lack of activity to the worm rod. The magic squid also failed to elicit a response. The only time an alarm sounded was when a dog limboed under one of the rods.

No fleece had been required and by the time I got back to the car the thermometer was still reading 18 degrees. Since then I've been staying home melting!

The fancy rod handle specs people dream up sometimes surprise me. The latest being a full Duplon that actually looks pretty good. I'm not a fan of the soft touch reel seat finish from a practical perspective (I have one on an Axiom and know that it is prone to scratching, and sweaty palms react with the rubbery coating) but they do look good when new. The finish is darker than the uncoated seat so blends in nicely with the black Duplon. This particular customer also specified locking collars for the DNPS seats. Probably overdoing things for pike rods, but as they are uncoated it gives an idea of the colour difference between a standard DNPS and the soft touch version. The photo below is of the dry run, taken to confirm with the customer that I've got the spec right.

Monday, July 14, 2014


Apparently there was some football match or other on telly last night. That must have explained why the roads were post-apocalyptically empty and the lake nearly so when I arrived shortly after nine. Last time out I'd looked at a swim which would allow me to cover a large area of open water. Given that most of the eels I was catching were coming away from the margins that seemed like a plan to follow. The swim was, unsurprisingly, vacant.

This time I had some fresh worms with me and thought I'd try a bunch on the edge of the pads with a bit of squid cast well out. Almost immediately I had takes to the worm rod, the worms being pinched. By ten o'clock I'd had a couple of runs to the squid, bumping a fish off on one of them. The action wasn't hectic, but steady enough to keep me interested.

It was a warm evening with a light breeze. The full moon was rising orange in the east. Silence descended on the lake as small bats flitted around the overhanging willows. I began to relax into my surroundings in anticipation with my radio turned low as I listened to The Week In Politics. That lasted a few minutes before The Copper Chopper came overhead circling around the lake and drowning out the radio. I expected the searchlight to sweep over the water at any minute, or a gang of criminals to charge past me pursued by howling police dogs, which naturally enough would seize on me.

When a red LED glowed brightly and the sounder in my pocket began to wail I forgot all about the commotion and managed to pull into an eel. It was hard to determine how big an eel had picked up the squid, but it was hooked and I wasn't letting it get away. I made sure the net was well sunk and the eel well over it before I lifted. All went well and one of the fatter bodied eels was safely swimming around in the net.

Sling and scales were readied before I swung the net ashore. This was barely done when the sounder sounded again. With all the excitement I had somehow blocked the noise of the helicopter out. The worms were showing no sign of stopping. Another eel was hooked. It was obvious from the outset that it was a bootlace, so once I had it in close I let it swim around in the margins on a couple of feet of line while I dealt with it's big sister (or brother). Five ounces over two pounds. Good enough for me but not worthy of the hassle of setting up for a self-take. Certainly not with a bootlace waiting to be unhooked.

Ten minutes later I was putting a fresh hooklink on the worm rod to fish a bigger bait when the recast squid was off again. With tackle all over the place I managed to fluff the strike, feeling the lightest of bumps that might have been an eel. The squid was recast, a roach tail put on the other hook and cast well out. By now the chopper had moved on and peace and quiet had returned.

Twenty minutes later the roach tail was taken but dropped. I did the winding the bait back to the lead thing. It was taken again five minutes later. My striking technique was back to normal, the bait gone from the hook to be replaced with another bit of squid. I had one squid chunk well out and one on the pads' edge. The close in bait was picked up and the strike messed up again at half eleven. Thirty minutes later I was packing up.

I'm wondering why the early sessions produced so many runs one after another, barely giving me a chance to sit down at times, and now things are more like I expect from eeling. Enough takes to keep me interested, but not so many as to tire me out! I was thinking of trying a different venue for a few sessions, just for a change, but I really ought to stick at it on one water. Or should I?

Friday, July 11, 2014

Feeling deflated

Still buzzing with the eel fishing I'd got my mind set on a late Sunday evening session after the crowds had departed. The gear was checked over and all I had to do was throw it in the car around nine thirty. That was when I spotted the flat tyre. Bang went that plan. Well, not literally 'bang'!

I put things forward 24 hours and hit the lake on Monday around quarter to ten. Arriving that late gave me a better choice of swims and I chose one I'd not fished before. It was warm and still, with the threat of rain which arrived in the form of a drizzle that sounded worse than it was on the brolly.

Despite the conditions it felt like an age before the first take to a sandeel head cast well out came at ten thirty. It was an age before the next missed run at quarter to twelve to the same bait. With a tail section cast out producing a dropped run ten minutes later I moved the margin squid bait away from the bank for it to be taken after ten minutes. I missed that run. Then it went dead again. The whole lake felt devoid of fish. I had been going to stop late but the lack of runs compared to previous sessions had seen me drinking tea to pass the time and the flask was getting empty. I wrapped up at quarter to one.

After that blank session I almost lost interest and didn't bother turning out on Tuesday or Wednesday. By Thursday I was determined not to be beaten and returned to the area which has given me the most eels so far. It was nine o'clock on a mild evening, the full moon already up in the sky, a kingfisher piping its call as it flew across the lake. I'm sure I saw a fish in its beak.

This session started even more slowly than the previous one. No hint of a run before dark, unlike other sessions in the area. The tedium was broken when I heard a woman calling for her pet across the lake. Her cries grew louder as she got closer. I could hear meowing opposite me. Footsteps approached and then, "Bloody hell!! A buxom blonde loomed out of the dark, "My cat's stuck up a tree and I can't find him." I pointed across the water, "He's over there." The small hairy doormat of a dog that was following her sniffed my rucksack and got shooed away before it cocked its leg. The pair melted into the darkness and all was quiet and still again.

By eleven I was getting so despondent that I was plotting a change of venue. Fifteen minutes later the squid left the margin at a rate of knots. No prizes for guessing the outcome. A fresh chunk was hooked up and cast back out. After ten minutes it was picked up and dropped. I wound the line back on the spool and it was soon running out again. I held the line and could feel the eel tugging. Usually when I have done this a strike has connected. Usually.

My hopes were rising. Unfortunately so was a light mist from the water. This never fills me with confidence. As the mist thickened towards midnight so I contemplated packing up. I like to leave the baits out as long as possible when leaving. to this end I tidy the rucksack, putting the sounder box in it's pocket, first. Then I take the rods from the pod and lie them on the deck with the line tight to the slack 'runner. The pod is dismantled, its bars folded up in my chair along with my cool bag. One rod is wound in and put in the quiver, then the second rod and finally the net is rolled up and slid into the front pocket.

The first rod had been unbaited and the joint separated when I heard a continuous buzzing. The squid had been taken again. The broken down rod was dumped and the other one picked up. Line was still being taken. I folded my left hand round the spool and struck.Something was wrong. There was a fish on!

In my head I was telling myself to take it steady, that there was no rush. I kept the pressure on rather than bully the eel while I got the net sunk. I had all night, so let the fish keep on trying to swim backwards on a tight line, gradually pumping it towards me. It's head appeared and it looked decent, but not huge. Possibly another two pounder. With the eel close to the net I had to try and judge where its tail was. Mist was swirling in the light from the Petzl making it difficult to see what was going on. being high above the water puts an awkward angle on the net frame, reducing its effective length and netting fish more difficult than it ought to be. I'm getting my excuses in early..

I had a sense of foreboding the instant I hooked the eel. That's why I was consciously taking my time. Probably why it all went so horribly, horribly Pete Tong. Probably why there were no histrionics when the inevitable happened. Because it had been inevitable.

Flying treble hooks I can understand getting caught in landing net meshes. Singles? I think the mesh mush have been floating because when I came to remove the hook from it it was in the outside, a few inches from the net cord. The eel's head can't have been over the net when it got stuck and wriggled free. Out of habit I recast the bait for a few more minutes while I put the other rod away knowing it was a waste of time. That eel wouldn't be coming back. I felt as flat as my tyre had been on Sunday.