Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Enough's enough

The website frustration, which I just can't be bothered with trying to sort out right now, and my  workload was driving me nuts and finally drove me out in an attempt to beat the oncoming foul weather yesterday.

I tried to find a spot that was sheltered from the chilling wind, and almost succeeded. The trouble was it was in a swim I've had next to no success in. However, it did allow me to cover a lot of water by casting baits out and working them back to me every half an hour. Which was what I did for the first two hours.

Despite the touch of colour in the water I wasn't feeling very confident. Unlike the robin that came to see me. No doubt used to being fed maggots and scraps of sandwiches it was out of luck as I had neither maggots not sandwiches with me. Even so it was finding plenty of small invertebrates in the mud that had been paddled up in the damp grass around the swim.

After those two blank hours I was getting restless and had a move. That was the cue for the weather to change from overcast with sunny spells to overcast with rain. I was a little happier in the new swim though, having caught from it in the past. Not this time. The whole place seemed lifeless. Yet another day when there was no pike activity to my rods and little bird activity around the water. With the hawthorns all but bare of berries there's nothing to tempt the winter thrushes. Even the tits made only a brief appearance and the goldfinch flocks were elsewhere or keeping low. To be honest I was glad when I packed up. It had been ne of those sessions. Not even fishing two bits of lamprey made a difference.

Back on the rod front I've fitted another Alps reel seat to a spinning rod for a customer. I have to confess that these Alps seats are exquisitely machined. Very nice if you like that sort of thing but no more practical than a bog standard Fuji seat.

All reel seats with inserts for decorative purposes require extra faffing about to fit to a rod. The one in question required more than usual. It's typical of designers to make things look pretty without giving a thought to how they'll be put to use. A reel seat has to be well bonded to the rod blank. That means there has to be enough of a gap for glue to fill. It's obvious from the photo that there's not much space for glue with this seat, and what there is is at each end. Still, a little ingenuity (not to mention a bit of bodging...) has done the trick.

One more thing. Fuji's composite reel seats were rightly hailed as an advance when they were introduced. They were not only corrosion proof, they were warmer to the touch than the all metal reel seats that were standard in the seventies and before. To my mind this fad for fancy machined aluminium reel seats is a step backwards, no matter how nice they look. Not that they all look nice. Some are plain ugly!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Catfish rods and ****ing technology

I continue to be kept away from the water by work and non-arriving parcels. So here's another post about rods and a big moan...

Once more I've been working on catfish rods.As yet nobody who has ordered cat rods has gone for what will be my standard build (although the next set in the pipeline will be close enough), which is holding up my getting a page devoted to the rods on my website. Below is the latest handle configuration on a 10ft Ballista catfish blank.

My standard handle will be similar, but with parallel Duplon between the Fuji butt cap and the reel seat and the foregrip will be the same style. Rings will be the usual BSVOG starting with a 40mm butt ring followed by six more reducing in size to a 10mm and a heavy duty, flanged, BUHT tip ring.

Now the moan...

My usually reliable internet hosts migrated the DLST webshop to a new platform (as I think the jargon has it) the other day and promised it would be a seamless transiition apart from some cosmetic alterations. Like hell it was. They've managed to remove any means of accepting on-line payments with no apparent means of reinstating them. That's not all that's gone haywire, but it's the most important thing.  I'm not a happy Lumby...

If you'd like to order any of my stuff you can find most of it here. Just put the order together in an e-mail to I'll work the total out and send you a Paypal invoice which can be paid by Paypal or card.

As soon as I've beaten my service provider into submission with a frozen mackerel and they have sorted the problems out to a satisfactory level I'll report back.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Spot the difference

Although I am actually keen to get out and try to catch some pike I find myself dogged by work. Which is not to say I'm complaining, for January and February are the tackle trade's quietest months as a rule. My mate shuts shop on Wednesdays from the New Year until Easterish, and one long-gone shop used close for the whole of February. The problem I have is psychological. Once the sun drops below the horizon my work hormone levels plummet. I simply cannot get motivated to do anything productive in the dark hours. At least it's a bit lighter in the mornings so I can just about start work around nine these days!

While waiting for some glue to set I thought I'd take some photos to show the difference between the centres of the aluminium oxide centres of the Fuji BSVOG rings I fit as standard and the Alconite centres of the BSVAG pattern which a customer has requested. The frames are identical but the Alconite centres are markedly slimmer. Naturally there's a price premium to pay for that!

This is teh first time I've fitted BSVAGs. I still prefer the BMNAG frame for aesthetic reasons, and the practicality of the rolled frame, if I don't want to go to the expense of Silicone Carbides on my own rods. If you really must have 50mm butt rings then the choice is between BSVAGs or Kigans as the BSVOGs get really clunky at 50mm. There's not much in it in terms of price but the Fuji frames are much more nicely finished than those of the Kigans.

L to R: BSVOG, Kigan, BSVAG (40mm)

Thursday, January 08, 2015

That big pike feeling

 Monday was one of those days when looking out of the window at a perfect winter's day drove me to drop my plans and go piking. I had that feeling. I even knew that I had to fish an area that doesn't get much attention. And I knew the spot I a had to end the afternoon in.

As I headed towards the first swim from which I was to work my way back to the soon-to-be-hotspot a pair of bullfinch flew ahead of me, looking a little like miniature jays showing their white rumps to me.

It was sunny and mild. Being by the water soaking up the earthy colours of the reeds and alders made perfect sense. Three baits were spread around the swim. One was the inevitable lamprey half, the other two were  a bluey tail and a pointless sardine. The more distant baits got twitched back at intervals. Another pointless exercise that seems to work miracles for other pikers.

Two duck sprang up from the flock of mallards hugging the far reeds that didn't look mallardish. When I managed to get the bins on them I was surprised to see a pair of pintail circling before disappearing into the distance.

After the usual hour I moved and repeated the procedure of positioning baits and working a couple back for another hour before the final move. With the baits out in the last swim of the day and the light fading later than it had been, both because of the days passed since the solstice and the clear sky, my confidence was high. It was only a matter of time before one of the floats moved. Shortly after four the close in lamprey head was away. It hadn't gone far before stopping as I stood up. It moved again, nice and steady as I got to the rod. That was its cue to stop. Dead. It moved no more. I wound the rig in and the teeth marks in the bait were dripping blood. Hard to tell if that had been the big fish I had the feeling about or not. Back it went.

I still felt like there was a chance. Even as I wound the rods in at five o'clock, a more civilised hour to be wrapping up at, I expected a float to wobble. It was not to be. Walking back to the car in the dark the dew on the grass was shining brightly in the light of my head torch like the reflective tape on a fireman's uniform.

Work commitments kept me away from the water on Tuesday and Wednesday, and were set to do the same today until that feeling came back. A five o'clock finish meant I could squeeze a couple of hours in after boxing off what work I could do. No time to fill a flask, and no need for such a short session. I was in two minds about where to head for. I doubted there'd be a second chance in the missed run swim but the wind seemed to be blowing off that bank and I fancied a change of tactic on one rod.

I think the Law of Sod had more to do with the wind actually blowing across the swim than from behind it than the Laws of Physics. I still made the change to my rig anyway. Although I had left my mini-drifter behind I felt sure that floating braid would enable a simple float to drag a small herring through the water under one of my dumpy pencil floats. The sardines and blueys remained in the freezer meaning that I had sensible lamprey and mackerel baits on the float leger rigs

For just this eventuality I had bought some jumbo split shot. My do everything rig was soon relieved of it's ounce and a half bomb and two shot clipped onto a loop of nylon which took its place. The small herring was secured to the trace with a few turns of red elastic and the whole lot was cast out. The sardines and blueys remained in the freezer meaning that I had sensible lamprey and mackerel baits on the float leger rigs.

The drifting bait was recast to cover different lines, the far bait was twitched back. I moved for the final hour and repeated the process, except the drifted bait had the shot replaced by a longer link and a bomb to hold the bait over some remaining weed. There didn't seem to be much in the way of birdlife about. Not even fieldfares or blackbirds. Just a few coots and tufties on the water and a couple of blue tits in the hawthorns. On such days pike are often absent too. And so it proved.  That big fish feeling had failed me. That's blank number three, which should see me change venue or species, but as the first blank was last year and I did have a run on Monday I'll call it one blank for now!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Over and done with

The sun set on my final (blank) session of the year yesterday. I would have ventured out again this morning if it hadn't been fora customer calling round. After he'd gone the weather went downhill as forecast putting paid to any ideas of an afternoon outing. Of course the rain didn't prove as bad as the forecast and I've probably blown my last chance for a pike until next year.

I don't think I've fished any more than ten miles from home in 2014, which is reflected in my magre results in terms of big fish. Thankfully I no longer worry too much about catching the biggest fish I can, putting more store on fishing when and where I'll enjoy being by the water catching decent sized fish for the water in question. While I've enjoyed the fishing I've done the waters haven't lived up to expectations. A monster eel water produced the skinniest eels I've ever seen and suffered from a plague of dog walkers and idiot anglers. That one's been crossed off the list for next summer. The tench fishing never really got going. It was not just me though, so that water will be tried again and possibly earlier if the weather is mild enough in March.

Instead of measuring the fish you catch against national standards, which is daft if you live 'up north', it's better to compare them to what's available locally.  On that basis roach over a pound and a quarter, a two pound plus eel and a few mid-double figure pike to over 17lb haven't been too bad a reward. Of the two tench I caught one was over five and a half pounds which really shouldn't be sniffed at. It was by far the biggest I've caught locally. Given that some of the fish have been venue PBs and that I haven't fished as often as I used to do I think I've faired okay for an average angler fishing average waters. You can only catch what's in front of you, after all.

And so another annual notebook is retired and added to the pile.

Once more I failed to get round to fishing the rivers for some unaccountable reason. Being lazy it's probably the irritation of putting the river gear together again that's held me back. I'm sure that if I do put in a river session the bug will bite again. The same goes for my threatened return to perch fishing. Part of my inertia is certainly a reluctance to go over the same ground. I've noticed that I rarely spend more than three years fishing any particular venue even if I haven't had the best out of the fishing. As I get older I seem to get fed up of waters even sooner.

Although I never make firm plans there's still plenty of things I could have a go at. Maybe I'll get round to chasing that silly sturgeon I kept forgetting about this year for a challenge in 2015. Or (but probably not) I might have a try for some carp... It's not so much that I want to catch carp, more that I've seen some that are an unknown quantity. The problem is that I don't want to catch them, but rather I'd like to catch them. If I really wanted to catch carp I'd put the right kind of effort into their pursuit. Sod that for a game of soldiers! As long as I can keep on putting a bend in a rod in pleasant surroundings that'll do for me.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Beats watching the Queen's Speech

That's that out of the way for another year! In my usual festive spirit I got up, had breakfast, varnished three rods and set them spinning then got the flask, food, bait and gear together to go have an afternoon's piking knowing I'd have the pick of the swims!

It's always a bit of a lottery picking swims when you haven't a clue where the pike are. A mate of mine caught a couple yesterday, so I chose a swim about as far away from where he fished as possible. Even though it's only a few days past the winter solstice the sun is setting noticeably later, so I'd have five and a half hours to move about a bit - without the risk of some other angler being in any swim I fancied.

The wind was light to brisk and not particularly cold despite the clear bright sky putting just enough of a ripple on the water to fuel my confidence. That said the water was clear enough to give me slight misgivings with the sunshine that I was expecting to carry on until dusk. The usual suspects were used as baits on the standard semi-fixed lead float leger rigs. A lamprey head got dropped in the margin to my left, a headless joey mackerel and a herring tail being cast out a little further to be twitched back at intervals.

Maybe it was the sunshine that set the great tits off chinking away in advance of spring. At one time there I could hear at least four of them staking out their territories. The one in the hawthorn close by being particularly insistent and loud, seeming to grow hoarse at one point. I suspect that was actually a change of call, but it did make me think it had given itself a sore throat!

 Although we've had a few frosts and some chilly weather there are still a few scraps of lily pad to be found floating in the margins. In the shallower water there's still fresh looking weed attaching itself to the hooks. While I'm all in favour of mild winters enough of a cold snap to kill off the weed wouldn't be too much of a hardship for me to bear.

After an hour I was contemplating a move when the sounder warbled in my pocket and the margin float drifted in closer to the trailing willow branches. Winding down and heaving I felt the line plucking off whatever was below the surface under the bush.

Once more a pike hooked at very close range did nothing more than make slow, wide head-shakes. I'd much prefer it if they would bolt off taking line under pressure to drive the hooks well home. Too many a head-shake has seen the trebles fly free. That wasn't the case this time, although once in the net my forceps were only required to remove the hooks from the mesh.

This was a nice clean fish, no signs of mouth damage or missing scales and filling out nicely for the time of year. Quite an orangey-yellow fish too.My guestimate was close after the needle of the Avons had settled at a few ounces over fourteen pounds. Not big enough to bother with a self take. Not even on Christmas Day. The lamprey head was still oozing blood so it got cast out again while I gave the swim another half hour. Then I moved.

After another hour I moved again. There's a swim I've had in mind to end the day on all season but have always got distracted by other choices. Today it seemed like the ideal spot to end the session. The wind had been blowing into that swim all day and at three it had dropped a bit. The sun came out as I packed the gear for the move then there was a Monkey's Wedding as soon as I set off. There wasn't supposed to be rain.

No sooner had I got the baits out in the new swim and the brolly up than the rain stopped. Typical. As it turned out a few more light showers drifted over before dark so the brolly cam in handy. My shemagh also came in handy as a makeshift hat. No sooner had I opened the rucksack up today than I realised my wooly hat was missing.

While the sun was out and I was reasonably sheltered my ears were warm enough. However, I knew that when the sun set it would be a different story. That's the trouble with having jug-ears.

A DIY turban might not be the most stylish of headgear, but it sure kept the old lugs toasty. Good job I don't give a toss what I look like so long as I'm warm!

Although I felt sure this last spot would be good for a run by the time the headtorch would required it wasn't. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I could easily have sat it out in the penultimate swim, which is pretty much a banker for a run or two at last knockings - and something decent had flattened the water within casting range - but I like to try different options when I can rather than tread the same ground. One pike for Christmas was more than I'd hoped for anyway.