Friday, May 11, 2018

Same old story

These days I find fishing is more therapy than hobby. I seem to go fishing when I need to ease the tension. Yesterday my stress levels had been raised by some infuriating photo-scanning software which not only ran as slowly as usual (which I can live with) it also manage to store the scans in a different folder than it had last time I used it, and promptly lost them all when it decided to crash. Instead of smashing the scanner into tiny pieces with a lump hammer I grabbed a lure rod from the rack, found the box of lures I used last spring, and set off into a warm and sunny evening.

Although late, the hawthorn blossom is not as far behind as the blackthorn was. By the meteorological calendar it's almost summer, but according to the blossom it's mid-spring.

I started out casting a small black Darter given to me by Carl who is producing Loz Harrop Lures. It worked well, but the pike didn't like it any more than I did. I've never got on with tight action, subsurface, baits. Topwaters which walk like that are great, but deeper I prefer a lazier action. A wider glide, or a dive/rise. Pauses are easier to control.

Time to revert to type and chuck a squirrely Burt around. In the third swim it took one cast along the edge to entice a small pike into action. It either missed the lure or failed to get hooked. It was nothing to get upset about when it's second attempt failed on the follow-up cast either.

Two more swims were thrashed before I made another lure change. This time to a sleeper lure which would be in my top ten. The only in-line spinner that I have ever rated for big pike. Not that I've had any really big ones on it, only teenagers, but I know it has caught some lumps for other people. It's easy to cast, easy to fish, and it has its days.

In the seventh swim of the evening the sleeper elicited the same response Burt had done earlier. Two missed chances (whether mine or the fish's I'm not sure) from a similarly sized pike. Time to get the Jackpot out. Perhaps conditions weren't right, but surface action was non-existent. Back to Burty Boy.

I spent some time working the Burt around a promontory while a pair of Canada geese kept a wary eye on me from across the bay as four small balls of fluff with clockwork legs pecked the grass around them. Time was getting on and the air cooling. Back to the usual two swims near the car for the last fifteen minutes.

It only took three casts for the Burt to get hit just short of the rod top. As the pike, maybe a little shorter than the lure, thrashed around I decided against swinging it to hand for the unhooking and to let it shake itself free on a semi-slack line. The plan worked.

In the final swim of my two hour session the drop in temperature was noticeable by the water coming off the braid feeling decidedly chilly on my right hand. Definitely time for home.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Every picture tells a story

Shortly after my previous post the famed Beast from the East arrived, bringing with it a lovely present for me in the form of a bug that was oding the rounds. It was like a cold, not quite flu, but longlasting. Everyone I know who had it took at least four weeks to feel anything like normal again. I was no exception. Going out of the house for food was a chore, so fishing was out all together. By the time I felt as fit as I usually do pike time had gone and it wasn't warming up enough for anything else to interest me. That's why it took the arrival of some unseasonably warm weather (which came without a catchy name) to fire me up for a springtime overnighter.

Thursday to Friday was looking favourite, but when I'd sorted my tackle out I couldn't find the groundbait and pellets I thought I had. There was a bucket and a half of seed mix, but not enough time to soak it. Nevermind, Friday night would be fine. It would give me a chance to pick up some pellets and stuff before I set off. In theory.

The tackle shop was devoid of the pellets I wanted. "Due in later today." Great. I picked up some rubbishy pellets for putting in PVA bags and some soft hookers which turned out to split when I pushed my baiting needle through them.

After having a plumb around the first half hour was spent spodding out particles. The sun has bright and warm where I was. Sheltered from the moderate north westerly. Small fish were dimpling, flipping and fleeing from predators. One or two better fish showed, but none of the bream I was hoping for. With the bait out the rods were readied and soon resting on the pod. Fake corn, fake caster, and a pellety thing. Time for tea.

The evening wore on. The wind eased. The temperature dropped. As dusk fell rattus rolandius came to inspect my spod spill. A clear and starry sky meant the temperature dropped considerably, and a light mist began to form over the now calm water. My hopes began to fade. I really don't like mist on the water.

Before and after dark I had a few single bleeps to the pellety thing rod. There was some hope. Shortly before dark I had swapped the plastic casters for a fake pop-up pellet, and the single fake grain of corn for my favourite two grain set up. At eleven twenty the yellow perils were picked up and the alarm kept on sounding. Somehow or other I managed to hook precisely nothing.

While spodding a few casts resulted in seeds dropping short and to the right of my target area. This was where I'd positioned the pellety bait, the fake baits being (I hoped) on the main bed of feed. Even if this accidental area of bait hadn't been laid I would have dropped that bait short. Three rigs in a tight area can be overdoing things, and following this tactic has caught for me in the past. I think partly that's because our baiting up is never as accurate as we like to imagine. Having watched others spodding from side on the spod almost always lands at different distances.

It was ten to midnight when the right hand alarm sounded again. No single bleep this time, a rapid series of bleeps. Lo and behold there was a fish on when I picked the rod up. Plainly not very big, and equally plainly a bream. It was a pleasure anglers five pounder that might have weighed three had I put it on the scales, but more likely would have just about struggled past 2lb. I didn't bother with the scales or the camera.

By one the rat had either gone to bed or gone elsewhere. The ducks which had been creating a din around midnight had shut up. I began to doze. I'm not sure when I woke but it was cold, nothing was happening, so I took my boots off and got inside my sleeping bag. The next think I know the sky is beginning to show light. At six I had a recast and switched the plastic pellet back to plastic casters in the hope of an early morning tench.

Gradually the day brightened and warmed causing a heavier mist to rise from the surface of the water. Small fish began topping again. The grebes were thinning them out. The bobbins were still, the alarms silent and my hopes all gone. I started taking photos of the sunrise, the mist, rods and reels and even of one of the swans which had annoyed me the previous evening. When a blog is filled with such shots it tells a simple tale. The fishing was rubbish. Or more likely, the angler was. By half past eight I was packing up and heading for home. Defeated.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Downs and ups

It was another case of nothing caught and nothing worth writing about from y first session in February. The day was a rare fine one between many wet ones. Although conditions appeared good there were no signs of fish life. Yesterday was the sort of February day that makes me feel positive. Dry, almost windless with sunny spells which warm the air. Best of all now the sun doesn't sink out of sight until almost six, and there is light to see by later than that, it means that if the UPS van arrives in good time I can still sneak a few hours fishing in.

The baits were in the water by half past two. I'd already seen a couple of small fish top as I walked to my swim. This wasn't my first choice, but after dropping my gear in my intended spot I had a wander along the bank. The trouble with such a day being that ever swim looked inviting in the sunshine.

For some reason I find sunny days at this time of year good for pike fishing. In summer or winter bright sun seems to be a turn off, but maybe there's a warming effect in February and early March. The frogs which have returned to my pond certainly make their presence known when the sun shines on the pond. Sticking their heads out and croaking until the pond is in shade once more.

It hadn't been a half hour when the right hand margin rod, fishing a lamprey head, was in action. The pike didn't fight, just tried to hold station with it's gob open making it feel bigger than it was. If I had no more action it had been worth getting out of the house.

I worked up a bit of a sweat with the unexpected activity and removed my fleece. It was almost warm enough to bask in the sun without the bunny suit.

That didn't last long and as soon as some clouds drifted across the sun I needed the fleece again. Zipping up the bunny suit was in order too. Disaster. The two way zip has been dodgy for a couple of years. Both zippers had to be pulled right to the top before the zip would close as the lower one was drawn back down. This time the upper zipper came off the rails. Pulling the bottom one up and back down closed the zip, but it wouldn't stay closed. Not reliably. Thankfully it wasn't icy cold.

About an hour after the fish I had a move. Again two baits were placed in the margins and the third one cast to a far bank feature. The sun made a reappearance. At four thirty the marginal headless joey mackerel moved off, but was dropped before I got to the rod. More action in two hours than my previous two trips!

Mallards were courting, buzzards mewing and soaring, a magpie cackled. Winter isn't over just yet but it's on the retreat. There's a rear-guard action forecast for the next week, but that won't deter the daffodils shooting through.

Five o'clock was my next scheduled move time. I picked up the lamprey rod and the bait jiggled through what felt like a sunken branch and went solid for a split second before the branch started to shake its head. At first I thought a big unseasonal eel had picked up the bait but the spotty flank rolling on the surface put that idea out of my head. I never have pike take baits as I wind them in. I have fished with someone who had the knack of making this happen on a regular basis. How, I don't know. This time the scrap was a good one. I kept the rod low in an attempt to stop the pike thrashing on the surface, and struggled to get it in the net.

More chaos ensued as I struggled to untangle a mess of mono which had sprung from the reel before I could get the pike ashore to weigh.

I've had this mono (Asso Bullet) on one reel to see how it performs. It's not caused me any problems. It knots easily and reliably, and despite the episode just mentioned isn't as springy as a lot of nylon lines. Part of the problem I had was the reel being out of gear and turning backwards - throwing line from the spool. After this winter I'll be back on braid on all my pike reels though. The monno is for a water which bans braid, an the Bullet will do the trick there. I might even use it on my eel reels this spring/summer.

With the pike returned and the mess sorted out I started to gather my stuff for the move when the sounder in my pocket bleeped. The mackerel was off again. This time I connected. A lively jack was soon unhooked in the edge. Two rods out of action in five minutes almost tempted me to stick in the swim a while longer. The final spot of the day was calling me. It was the one I'd planned on fishing first, after all.

Another sign that spring is on the way was the evening chorus. There was a joyous cacophony of birdsong as the sun began to lower in the sky. Blackbirds, robins, great and blue tits all staking claim to territory and trying to impress potential mates. I spent a few minutes listening to the last of an invisible song thrush's song as the light eventually faded. It was easy to believe the bird was thinking about its improvisations, subtly modifying phrase after phrase with additional trills and warbles as it repeated them. The song ended as the light went. It hadmade me feel happy and content. I wasn't bothered that the final move of the day had produced no more fish. It was time for home.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

No fish bay

For the first time in ages it stopped raining yesterday. What's more the temperature rose with a moderate southerly wind. It had to be worth going pike fishing. Even so I still left the umbrella in the quiver. Taking it out would have been tempting fate. I did risk it without my waterproofs though.

Working on the basis of doing things differently I started off in a swim I usually end up in at dusk. One bait in the 'hotspot', one chucked the the site of a lily bed and the third under a drifter float.

It's not often I get a favourable wind for drifting other than over open water so I haven't had much chance to try the float I made a year or two back. It's based on the Colin Dyson design from way back when. The idea being to have a float which I could swap from my bottom end floats when float-legering. In place of the two map pins which the original used as a clip at the top of the float's body I have a line clip from a bobbin. The stem is a bit of broken rod tip, the vane a plastic loyalty card or something covered in dayglo gaffer tape and rod varnish! There's a swivel attached to the end of the carbon stem by some glue-filled shrink tube.

To swap from float-legering to drifting I swap the bottom end float for the drifter, unclip the lead and clip from the top of the trace, and put three very big split shot on the trace wire. For drifting small waters the set-up works well. At least it drifts the bait. I didn't find out how the pike react to it.

Although the drifting exercise proved fishless it did find me a feature I wasn't aware of when the bait ran aground. So the time spent wasn't wasted.

After an hour I made a move to another swim which I often end the day in. Here the wind wasn't conducive to drifting and teh rig was swapped back to a float-leger. A bit of bait twithcing and recasting for a little over an hour and I was off again, uncertain where to go next.

No fish bay seemed as good a place as anywhere. Like a fool I didn't fish the bank where the wind would have been off my back but the opposite side. Although the air temp was high the wind had picked up and its chill factor had too. Everything was looking good for a run or two at dusk, or maybe into dark. But it wasn't to be.

Apart from robins singing and chasing early on and the occasional chinking of a great tit suggesting spring might be approaching there was little in the way of bird activity. Ducks, coots and grebes weren't in evidence on the water. They were either skulking in the reeds or roosting in the snag trees. Little waterfowl activity often seems to go hand in hand with an absence of pike from the landing net. No fish bay lived up to its name and I gave up on the idea of stopping a whole hour into dark watching the starlights on my floats.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Rods for sale

Owing to the fact I have far more rods than I actually need, and that I have at least two sets that would do the same job, I'm parting with my 11ft 3lb Torrix rods. I built them for my short lived carp 'campaign' in 2016, for which they were ideal. As that is well and truly behind me, and because I found them best when casting a lead and small bait, they are surplus to requirements.

As rods I really like them, they are light, well balanced, crisp in action. They were my eel rods last summer but for pike fishing I found them too tippy to use with half baits or heavier, and for playing pike and catfish the same applied. Stick a two to three ounce lead and a small bait like a boilie or a roach head on, though, and they cast like a dream.

The build is as shown. Fuji reel seat with carbon insert, abbreviated Duplon, Alconite rings (30mm butt to 10mm tip, Rover spacing), black thread tipped with khaki at the handle, hook keeper on the left. Butts and tips are numbered with dots (0, 2, 3 for some reason!).

The RRP for a factory build on these rods (Kigan rings, plain reel seat) is £252 each. This build  would be similar. I'm selling these three for £530 including carriage.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Double first

For once both the UPS and Royal Mail drivers arrived earlier than expected. Early enough for me to throw the pike gear and some baits in the car and get to the water with plenty of daylight remaining. Even better was that the day was fairly mild, with no wind-chill. If it stayed that way I could fish an hour or more past sunset. So far so good. My usual plan hit a brick wall when I found the swims I usually end up in during my roamings were all occupied. I'd have to try something different. The area I fished on Christmas Day didn't appeal, and I didn't fancy a long walk either. Off to a swim I have fished a few times with success.

Faced with open water the third bait usually gets whacked well out and sort of twitched back. The other two fish the obvious feature. The margin. Had there been more wind I'd have got my little drifter out for a play, but that wasn't an option. As I was planning on stopping into dark I left the Mk2 night floats on.

Despite the conditions feeling favourable I wasn't happy with where I was, even though I repositioned the baits after twenty minutes. I wasn't all that confident of the rather skinny bluey I had on one rod, nor the lamprey tail on another. I moved early to a swim which had yet to produce a pike for me, as in one banked. The first time I dropped a deadbait in the left hand margin it was taken quickly by a pike which felt a fair bit bigger than the mid double I'd put pack in another swim a few minutes earlier. That's what keeps drawing me back to the swim.

I left the sardine I'd been fishing in open water and cast it to some far bank willows. Then I put a fresh lamprey head in place of the washed out tail section, which I chopped into four pieces and scattered around the head section after I'd swung it into the margin on my right. The bluey was replaced  with a small, but cucumber-smelling, smelt and dropped to my left. The sun came out.

One of the night floats I'd painted black and made a 'sight bob' for it by wrapping dayglo gaffer tape around a dead starlight. This actually showed up quite well at a moderate distance, better still at close range. None of the floats moved.

I sort of had it in mind that if any of the other anglers packed up before four o'clock I'd make a move. In the end I didn't. It seemed like sitting it out in this swim until the usually productive time when the light began to fade might be a good idea. Usually I move out of this swim to a 'banker' for last knockings. Maybe that's why the swim had never produced.

My head torch was out of the rucksack ready for action when the horse needed watering. Cue the sounder box to do what it's supposed to do... Dash to the rods and it's the lamprey head that's away. At the start of the winter I loaded one reel with Asso Bullet mono to see how it behaved. So far my few sessions proved that it cast and spooled okay, but it hadn't been tested with a fish. That was about to change. Turn the reel handle and wind straight into the pike. No problem. Another four or five pounder was coming in easily. Not much of a test for the line. I reached back and grabbed the net, sliding it forwards into the water. Now the jack was under the rod tip but for some reason was refusing to pop to the surface as I bent into it. A lunge and a swirl and I realised it wasn't a jack at all!

The first glimpse I got of the fish suggested a scraper double. A lightly hooked one at that with the lamprey section flapping around from the top treble well outside the pike's mouth. Sink the mesh and give the fish some rice. Job done. A quick look suggested eleven pounds before I wedged the net to retain the fish while I got the unhooking gear and scales sorted.

Lifting the fish ashore in the net it felt a bit heavier than my guestimate. On the mat the hook fell out. In the sling the needle spun round past six o'clock. The fish being lean across the back was what fooled me. Nicely marked and conditioned, with room to fill out before spawning she was lively on her return to the water.

I sorted the usual mess out then sat back to watch the starlights get brighter as the sky got darker. Although the air temperature had dropped markedly at sunset it didn't feel too chilly. I was quite comfortable in my bunny suit. If it hadn't been for hunger I might have stayed longer, but by five fifteen my belly was complaining.

It just goes to show that you shouldn't write a spot off until you've fished it at the most productive times. Common sense really. However, the temptation of fishing a swim which has produced on a regular basis is difficult to stay away from. It can be a bad habit to get into, though. I'd caught a first pike from a 'new' swim and a first on the mono. I'll keep on with the mono until spring, then I might use it for eels. Quite why I'm not sure when braid has so many advantages for predator fishing. I guess I just like experimenting.