Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Barbel Time

Playing with a new mould I knocked up some big feeders for the Trent recently, and decided to put an article about DIY Swimfeeders together for Barbel Now.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Make your mind up

I'd been debating whether to have another tench session for most of the week, mainly because the weather forecast was for rain, more rain, and a little more rain. I put it off until the forecast had worsened then decided to go anyway. As I arrived on the Sunday afternoon conditions were grand, light wind from the south west, sunshine and warm. I pretty much had the choice of swims and headed for the shallows, even though the the track was a bit slippy and the car didn't always go the way it was supposed to. While setting the rods up a few spots of drizzle fell so up went the brolly, but the shower soon passed and two method feeders were out and a boilie rig with a bag of pellets - all at staggered ranges. The dreaded maggot feeder having been abandoned.

Things looked good, and a couple of fish rolled. As so often has been the case, conditions that appeared perfect failed to result in any fish. After dark it started to rain, as per the forecast but not as heavy as expected. During the night the wind swung round forcing me to reposition the brolly twice. Apart from hooking a small bream which fell off close in those were the only disturbances during the night. The morning dawned dry, but the wind decided to swing round yet again, and blow straight into the brolly, so I had to turn it round again. Soon after more rain came along.

The first fish of the day came around 6.30, a bream of five or six pounds that fell to the method rod fishing a 10mm boilie with a grain of fake corn.

A little over an hour later a proper run to the other method rod with the two grains of corn resulted in a tench of just under eight pounds. Result. Both method rods soon had corn on them.

The rain faded away and the day turned out warm when the sun broke through the constantly changing cloudscape. Meanwhile on the radio I was hearing tales of serious flooding in other parts of the country. It seemed unbelievable with the weather I was experiencing as I reeled in a succession of bream in the three to five pound range. You can only take so many small bream, so I started to drop the second feeder a bit closer in, which did the trick of avoiding the bream.

Late in the afternoon the wind swung round yet again. Would it never make up its mind and settle into coming from one direction? With the brolly moved, I settled down to make something to eat. The wind strengthened, forming white caps on the waves. I have found that this kind of a blow has often brought the tench on the feed, and as I finished off a tin of Irish stew a tench decided it fancied two 10mm boilies for its tea. Fighting a big six with the rod, and the wind with the landing net was quite a tricky job. But I managed it. Forty minutes later the boilie rod was away again, this turned out to be fantastic looking big seven - the pictures failing to do it justice.

I was expecting another tench at any moment, but a small bream to one of the method rods was the final fish before the heavens opened - and the wind changed up a gear. By now the alarms were bleeping all the time, the rods arced round, and when I wound one rod in the line was festooned with weed. It was starting to get silly. The rigs wouldn't be fishing effectively, and the weed gathering on the line would have posed problems had a fish been hooked.

When the brolly tried to change shape it was decision time again. During the day the track had dried out nicely and would have been easy to drive down, but the rain over the last couple of hours had turned it to slime again. Option one: wind the rods in, batten down the hatches, sleep through the storm and fish again in the morning when it had all calmed down. Option two: pack up immediately and make a run for it - keeping fingers and toes crossed that the car wouldn't get bogged down.

Deciding that I was supposed to be enjoying myself I hastily, and roughly, packed the gear away as the rain lashed down, slinging the gear in the back of the car anywhere it would fit. Now for the fun bit - don't stop the forward motion once the car is moving! It started off easily enough on firm ground, then came the rutted dip. Down into it was easy, then the wheels began to spin faster than they were moving forward. Slowly the car came up the other side, painfully made progress up the next slope, then it was downhill all the way. So long as I didn't collide with a sheep I'd made it!

Was I relieved to make it to the gate? You bet! I guess I should have been more decisive earlier in the week and fished sooner to avoid the bad weather I knew was due. But hey ho, it had worked out okay in the end. Now, shall I have another crack at the tench or start barbel fishing? I'm not sure...

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A mixed bag - of fish and weather

I was in two minds about this session. The rivers had opened the day before and were up and coloured. Barbel would be feeding. However I had one of those indefinable feelings telling me to go tenching again. The weather forecast was not great, with heavy showers and prolonged spells of rain forecast over the next couple of days, even though it was a glorious summer's afternoon as I headed south and remained pleasantly warm as I settled into my chosen swim.

Swim selection had also been the result of a hunch, it being one I hadn't fished before, but it felt right. A small roach/bream hybrid took a couple of plastic casters almost straight away, but by the time it went dark nothing else had happened. As night fell so did the forecast rain, which, although not heavy, lasted all night. The only action to the rods during darkness being an occasional line bite or tufty activity.

Dawn broke calm and dry but it wasn't until six o'clock that a positive bite registered. The method feeder rod tore off and a tench was hooked, only for it to fall off when it hit a patch of weed. The hook came back draped in Canadian pondweed and a small piece of plastic bag. After that bream started showing up, not large, the biggest being around the six pound mark, but they came along at intervals during the day. At quarter past ten, after a couple of bream had been landed on the double caster/maggot feeder rod the corn on the method rod was away again and a six pound tench safely landed.

Around one o'clock the first of the showers arrived right on cue after a few fish had rolled in my swim. I had switched to two method feeders by now, both fishing two grains of plastic corn, as that seemed to be the going method to catch the tench. For what it's worth the mix I was using consisted of hemp, molasses meal, assorted 4mm and 6mm halibut and Sonu feed pellets bound together with p.v.1 binder.

By two o'clock it was raining hard enough for me to be willing the bobbins to remain still when the one on the caster rod started doing its up-and-down going-nowhere bream dance. The rain was pounding on the brolly so hard I couldn't hear the Delkim! I threw on my jacket and landed the fish as quickly as possible, recasting an empty feeder just so I could dive back under cover. But as I reset the indicator I noticed that the bobbin on the middle method rod was up to the top and the line as taut as a bowstring. Again I had heard nothing. The bream had obviously moved in.

On picking the rod up the fish was weeded but steady pressure got it moving towards me. A couple of thumps told me the fish was still on and I wasn't just dragging a ball of weed in. Two more thumps and the 'bream' came free, took a bit of line and kited to my left. Ooops. It was a tench! Standing out in the lake in my waders with the rain lashing into me would not have made for the traditional tench fishing scene. Again the hook held, and after a good scrap my biggest fish off the water so far was in the net.

Such was the changeable nature of the weather that by the time I had the fish weighed and ready for the snaps the sun was shining, and as soon as the fish was returned it was hot enough to get my damp gear dried out!

The rest of the afternoon was quiet, apart from the unusual, to me at least, experience of catching two perch on fake casters. One weighed in at 1lb 12oz. The amount of fry to be seen in the margins explained the presence of the perch. Maybe I should have put a worm out to see if there were any bigger ones around.

The afternoon turned into a glorious evening and brought the bream which showed at intervals into dark. An hour or so before dark I had swapped the maggot feeder for a straight leger with two 10mm boilies, and just before 10 o'clock something made off with them at a rate of knots. How I failed to hook it was mystery. A little doubt crept in over this, was the hair too long? A bream shortly after and a roach/bream hybrid of 4lb 11oz at 1 o'clock set my mind at rest on that score.

The following dawn was more like you would expect at this time of year, flat calm with wisps of mist rolling over the surface of the water. Again the tench refused to roll and bubble to complete the picture. It wasn't until 5.40 am that the final tench of the session made an appearance, a five pounder that was in a rather sorry state around the vent. I caught up on some sleep and packed away my gear as the midday shipping forecast interrupted the commentary from the fourth test.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Method Feeder Rig

Without a doubt this rig, in various guises, has proved to be my most successful so far this spring. Various feeders have been tried and I have settled on the Drennan's for now. The only 'faults' with the feeders are that the tail rubbers are a bit of a slack fit, easily cured by a dab of super glue, and the hole through the tail rubber is very small - only a problem if you are visually handicapped!

All dead simple. Mould some groundbait laced with hemp and pellets around the feeder, chuck the lot out, set the bobbins, sit back and wait.

A larger swivel could be used for attaching the hooklink, but I like to make the link come out stiffly from the feeder using the silicone tubing to completely eliminate tangles. While I have mostly been using two grains of plastic corn the rig works equally well with other baits, popped up or on the bottom.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Maggot Feeder Rig

Last year I was using a helicopter variant as my maggot feeder rig, but changing hooklinks was a bit of a pain and I was never convinced that it was all that good a rig anyway. Although this one uses more components than I'd really like it is pretty simple, and easily converted to a straight leger rig. I don't like quick-change connectors between my main line and hooklink, preferring to retie the knot. It takes only a few seconds longer, ensures that the knot isn't neglected and makes the rig more streamlined. Click on the pictures to enlarge them.

The feeder is a 30gm Kamasan Blackcap, and the backlead shoved inside it is around 30gm too. This makes for a feeder that flies well, is heavy enough to tighten up to without moving and which still sits horizontal on the lake bed. Using a sliding Powergum Stop Knot to trap the Run Ring between two beads makes the hooklink stand out from the main line on the cast, and gives me the option to quickly change to a free running rig should I so desire - by sliding the knot up the line a few feet.

For what it's worth I have been using Daiwa Infinity Duo as mainline, in the 0.285 diameter. I quote the diameter because this line is IGFA rated at 12lb, so it will break below that. I have heard it said that Duo is bad for line twist, but I have actually found it to be less prone to twisting than Sensor. Maybe it's the fact that the two-tone colouration of the line that makest he line twist readily visible that has given Duo this reputation?

It was the limpness of Duo that attracted me to it in the first place, and it has proved good in that respect once loaded on the reels, and it seems pretty abrasion resistant too. Reflo Powerline has been a good reliable hooklink material so far, in both 0.19 for the casters and 0.21 for corn. It's maybe not as limp as it could be in short lengths, but it is very clear and I can't see the need to delve into the murky world of fluorocarbons when this stuff is avialable.

One thing I don't like about using plastic baits is trapping them on the hair using a bait stop. It looks kind of clumsy, although I know full well it doesn't put the fish off. Even so I have had problems with artificial baits falling off the hair, so when using casters and pellets I tie them on to the hair. That way they ain't going nowhere!

While I have read that Kamasan Animals are not particularly sharp hooks, my experience has been different. Even so, it's no great hardship to run a file over a hook if the point is not up to snuff. When I want to use a small hook the Animal is the one I go for.

So that's about it. Maybe not the most exciting rig, but it seems to work well enough.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

It's not what you do, but where you do it.

This time last year I took up an offer of some tench fishing on a southern gravel pit, and came away with a new PB, beating the one I had caught a few days earlier on another water. They say you should never go back, but another invite was forthcoming and off I went - to discover the tench fishing had slowed down, but some decent bream had been showing up.

The swim I had been told to head for was taken but the carp anglers were helpful when they knew I was after tench and I headed for another swim at the same end of the lake. Tench started showing almost immediately and I had soon located a nice hard patch not too far out. Apparently a maggot feeder approach had been sorting the tench out, so I started out with one rod on that, with three red maggots on the hook, and a method feeder with my trusty grains of plastic corn on the other rod. Half a dozen small spodsfull of hemp went out and I sat back. The tench continued to show but the bobbins remained inactive.

As darkness fell an eel of about a pound took the maggots, so that rod was switched to another method feeder, but with a single plastic pellet on the hair. At half past eleven the corn rod tried to spring into life, but as it was a bream that had picked up the 'corn' it wasn't exactly hyper. The dead weight on the end of the line told it's story, a couple of tail slaps as it neared the net and I had my first double in the net. In the past I had scoffed at people fishing for bream, but now I could see the attraction. When they get to that sort of size they look like another species.

The next time an alarm sounded it was a proper screamer, and at two in the morning it was a bit of a shock. Unfortunately the hook point made contact with the pellet and I failed to hook the fish.

At dawn the tench were rolling and tail slapping again, so the maggot feeder went back out, this time with two plastic casters on the hair. I do like these plastic baits. However it was the corn that was off again, and a hard scrapping seven pounder, the deepest bodied tench I have ever seen, was netted and returned. I didn't bother with a photo as the way the tench were rolling in the area I was sure more would be following soon. Well, if more than twelve hours later is soon, one did!

Having a chat and a cup of tea with my host when he called to see me after work the casters headed for the hills. This tench fought harder than the first one, and I was concerned about the hold the size 16 hook had. Rightly so as it fell out in the net. In the sling and weighed it was a new personal best by two ounces.

As you can see above, I let some old bloke hold it for the photograph...

Despite more tench activity on the surface the infuriating fish would not pick up my baits. So, in preparation for some more bream activity I again rigged up two method feeders and lay back for some sleep. I was awoken around two by a very dodgy take to the corn rod, and it was like Groundhog Day as the perfect twin, to the ounce, of the first night's bream was netted. This time I made a slightly better job of the photos, though.

The final morning dawned damp, and again tench were everywhere. Only one small one deigned to pick up one of my artificial offerings, and picking a lull in the rain I packed up and headed for the water I have been fishing since April.

Talking to the anglers already there things had gone from bad to worse and very little action was being had - although one bloke I was talking to as he set up stall had fish rolling all over the place in front of him. I chose to head for a swim that, although usually popular, hadn't been fished for some weeks. As soon as I had my baits out a good tench rolled over them. More visual signs of tench followed before dark and at dawn, more so than usual on this venue, but take my baits they would not. A move was called for and a chat with other anglers to see what had been occurring. Not a lot. The guy who had a swim full of tench had not had a sniff! What to do? Pick a swim with no tench activity?

I set up away from the rolling fish, but not too far away,and put out some bait again. Felt confident. Saw tench over the bait. And blanked. The following morning dawned foggy, and when it lifted and the chill went from the air I called it quits. Just goes to show that you have to be on feeding fish to catch them.