Thursday, December 31, 2009

So it goes

I've not been out fishing over Christmas as I've been feeling a bit under the weather, and the weather outside hasn't been encouraging enough to tempt me out into the cold. So I've stopped in reading and re-reading Gierach. I'm glad our winters don't last as long as the ones they get in Colorado. It's almost made me want to take up flyfishing with bamboo rods - but not quite... A little Googling has turned up a Gierach article on-line.

2009 wasn't a bad year, England beat the Aussies to regain the Ashes and I caught some nice fish. But my fishing was a bit up and down like the England cricketers' performances. The cold start to the year scuppered any chance of good barbel catches but I got a feel for chub fishing. Then the last week of the season panned out well when the weather changed for the better. Alas the good fortune didn't carry on into the spring tench campaign. I was hoping to really get to grips with my chosen venue this year but a combination of unfavourable conditions and a lack of time meant I caught just nine tench - although the ones I did catch were worth having.

Work restricted me to the one late spring bream session that went better than I could have hoped for. Then the rivers opened and I got sucked back into barbelling, because it was handy and fitted in round work, forgetting my other plans for the summer because I couldn't put a foot wrong with the barbel between July and November. When winter came back with a bang work piled up making me miss those narrow slots when the river was on form or a stillwater worth a visit.

Here's the highlights:
  • Barbel - 12-12
  • Bream - 14-06 [pb]
  • Carp - dnw
  • Chub - 6-09 [pb]
  • Grayling - 1-05 [pb]
  • Roach - dnw
  • Tench - 9-09 (f) [pb]
[pb]= personal best, dnw = did not weigh (i.e. small!), (m) = male, (f) = female

Perhaps not as spectacular as last year when it comes to variety of personal bests, but the longer you fish the harder they get to beat and I have no complaints. The main thing is that I've enjoyed my fishing once again. New stillwaters and stretches of river have been explored and fished successfully. That's probably the greatest thing about fishing, there's always something to do that you haven't done before. When it pans out well in pleasant surroundings, which seem to become more important than the fish as I get older and grumpier, there's nothing better.

All the best for 2010.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Snow's no fun

I had it all planned. Christmas rod orders out on Monday and spend the rest of the week fishing. The stillwaters had mostly turned solid but the rivers would be okay for chub, roach and grayling, maybe tempting enough for a pike rod to accompany me. I was looking forward to the change. Then it snowed. It's not being out in the cold that puts me off fishing but the journey to the river. Time was I'd have turned out anyway, but that was in the other country they call the past.

Long ago and far away

The other Christmas my present to myself was a lathe, this year it included a film/slide scanner which I used to scan the photo above. If I don't manage to get out fishing again soon I might blight the blog with some more blasts from the past.

I also treated myself to another Gierach book. Gierach is one of those writers it's easy to become a bore about, one you wish only you had discovered yet want to tell everyone about - even though those who would want to know almost certainly did before you 'discovered' him. That his writing is ostensibly about fly fishing is irrelevant, there are truths which are universal to fishing so it resonates. However, it's often not really about fishing at all. But then fishing often isn't.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Feathered friend

Quite why I've got the urge to catch pike again I don't know. I was up and about at six, hastily eating toast and honey and forgoing my first brew of the day in my haste to get to The Land that Time Forgot again. For once the rain didn't descend as soon as I opened the car door in the car park. The air temperature had dropped about three degrees between leaving home and arriving at the lake though.

If I'm honest, had my maggots not been old and castery I would have put two roach rods in the quiver and one pike rod. As it was I had three different rods with me, all on trial. Well, the 2.5lb Torrix wasn't on its first outing, but I hadn't tried it with braid or for piking before. The other 'pike' rod was a 3.5lb Ballista which I've built up to use as a spod rod - my proper spod rod being a bit too much for the smallish spods I use when tenching. The third rod was one of the three 1.75lb Torrixes which I have managed to get whipped up and the thread sealed with its first coat (good enough to fish with). I settled on the metallic aquamarine thread for handle highlights in the end, and a cut down woven carbon reel seat and trimmed Duplon cones, plus lightweight Fuji SiC guides, for a personalised look.

It looks better if you click it...

A smelt and a headless mackerel were cast out a short distance from the bank. I'd picked a spot where the margin shelves steeply into deep water on the basis that the water will have cooled recently. It was a plan. When it was properly light I set my chair by the 'roach' rod and commenced casting the feeder to get some bait out. The rod handled the 30g feeder easily, much better than the Chimera Avon as a casting rod. It's a more powerful rod, obviously, but with a tip that is soft enough to cope with small hooks. I had a problem. The six pound line on the reel I was using (one of my Sporteras) was catching on the tag end of the backing it was tied to. It wasn't stopping me reaching where I wanted to fish but it was annoying.

The sky was overcast, the wind chillingly from the north. I couldn't get my brolly up where I was sitting as the bank was quite steep. My thermometer showed that the water was warmer than the air! I was tempted to move downwind to get some shelter in the next peg along. A much more civilised swim. I resisted.

After a couple of hours of nothing it commenced raining. I set the Aqua brolly up on a flat piece of ground above the rods and let the roach rod fish for itself - baitrunner engaged. I'd been throwing maggots to a friendly robin that had come to see me. It was in and out, mostly in, of my swim all day long. Often landing on my left hand rod setting the sensitive Blankbiter off.

Cheeky chappy

At half past ten a roach hung itself and I set up a paternoster rig on the heavier Torrix. A bit late but I should be guaranteed a pike on it. Fish must have found the maggots as a couple more bites were missed over the next hour or so before a small skimmer hooked itself. This was popped in the landing net in case I needed another bait when the roach was taken. A second skimmer joined it after lunch. Around this time the paternostered roach woke up and I heard a few single blips from the alarm. There must have been a pike spooking it, the alarm would sound in earnest soon. The next fish to the single red maggot was another roach of some ten ounces. Getting soft in my dotage I let that one go.

Too big for bait... today!

The catching line was annoying me when I cast. I swapped the feeder for a 1.5oz bomb and whacked it out. Then I pulled line from the spool until the knot was exposed. What to do? I had no tape in the tackle box to hold the tag ends down. I had one of my rare brainwaves. I took my scissors to a plastic gripseal bag I had in the box and cut a strip from it. This was placed over the knot and the line wound over it. Success! Back on with the feeder and to fishing.

By half past two I was getting ready to admit defeat on the pike front. At three I wound in the roach rod and tidied most of my gear away. The smelt rod was wound in and packed into the sling. Time was running out. I picked up the livebait rod and wound that in. Beaten. The final task was to release the two skimmers and roll the net up. I dropped the net cord below the water surface and teased the reluctant fish out. There was a noisy swirl and a puff of silt. No wonder the bream didn't want to leave the safety of the net. A small pike had nobbled one of them to taunt me.

Anyway I had turned out partly to try rods out. As with plans, I like to have my excuses prepared in advance! The 1.75lb Torrix proved okay for the job. Until something better materialises they will be my choice for feeder fishing for roach at distance. However, I am wondering how they will perform with a big tench on. There's plenty of poke lower down so the softer extreme tip compared to the Interceptor shouldn't be a problem. They are sweet rods to hold and cast with. The 3.5lb Ballista didn't get much of a work out, nor did the 2.5lb Torrix - although it cast the livebait nicely.

There'd been another piker on the lake who had had nothing, and two anglers fishing on the tip hadn't caught as many silvers between them as I'd managed. So I hadn't fared badly. I'm pretty sure that if I'd concentrated on the roach, fishing two rods and recasting more frequently, I would have had more. I don't know what I have to do to get a run off a pike from this place though. And I'm not sure I want to put the time in to find out. Or do I?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Back to the river

If I had got the morning's jobs finished sooner I might have gone roach fishing again, but time had run out. There were things I could have been doing but they could wait. I knew I really should have been on the river last night when it was warm, nonetheless I grabbed a belated chance to try for a December barbel. Three weeks is a long time in river fishing and not only had the trees now lost all their leaves making the ridge-line of the far bank visible through the veil of fine branches, the only greenery to be seen being ivy covered trunks, but the river bank had altered yet again with the floods. This can make finding exact spots to put the gear down and to cast baits to difficult.

It was a glorious blue-skied and fluffy-clouded afternoon. I left my fleece off under the bunny suit as I walked upstream past raddled and incontinent ewes. The river was carrying some colour, was up a foot or maybe slightly more and was warm - 7.1C. The chances of a barbel looked good. Even so I had hedged my bets and packed the quivertip rod and the remains of Sunday's maggots. An S-pellet went upstream on a barbel rod and then the feeder rod was put into action. I cast the empty feeder out until I found the distance where it would hold, then I put the line in the spool clip. Next cast the hook was baited and the feeder filled. On hitting the clip I gave the reel handle a couple of turns then set the rod down to let the tip settle. A few quick casts to get some maggots in the swim then leave it a bit longer.

When I can't be bothered tying up hooklinks for this sort of fishing, and my stillwater roaching, I use hooks to nylon. Kamasan B611s as a rule. They're a strong hook and tied to stronger nylon than most.

Lazy man's hooklinks

After half an hour I decided I wasn't happy with the S-pellet and wanted to swap it for a boilie. Unfortunately the rig was snagged solid. Either I'd judged the cast badly or a new snag had appeared in the swim. To save time I got the other barbel rod out and baited it with an Oyster and Mussel boilie before casting out to a slightly different spot. Then I rebaited the maggot rod and set to retackling the first barbel rod. I wanted to fish two barbel rods after dark.

With that sorted I wound in the feeder for a recast. The red maggots were a pulpy mess. I'd had a bite and not seen it. At least there was a chub around by the looks of those maggots. Cue greater concentration on the quiver tip. It only moved when debris hit the line. There wasn't enough coming down to dislodge a 3oz lead, but the 30g feeder would move. I would have put money on getting a few more bites.

By four o'clock it was starting to grow cool. The light was fading, but not as quickly or as soon as it does when sat indoors at this time of year. There's less than two weeks to the shortest day now, that turning point in the season when things slowly begin to feel more optimistic. It's no wonder there are festivities around this solstice. It was time to pack away the feeder rod and get serious about the barbel. The second barbel rod was baited with an S-pellet and cast downstream and well across.

There was now a narrow band of mist hovering over the river giving the water a milky look. A thin veil that was also creeping over the bank. My confidence began to ebb. I was twenty-four hours late and I knew it. The mist wasn't for making its mind up. It cleared for a while, raising my hopes. At five I picked up the boilie rod for a recast. The line plucked off something then I began to drag some rubbish in. Half way back the rubbish wagged its tail. In the torch light I could see a chub making a feeble attempt at fighting back. There had been no indication. I returned the chub then the stars appeared and the mist closed in again. The beach beckoned. On retreiving the boilie rod I saw a chunk of the bait was missing. Another chub attack with no movement on the rod tip. When the chub are feeding delicately times are tough.

As I rounded the bend the river was clear. Maybe there was a chance. By the time I had the baits out and was settled down the far bank was gone. The mist had become a fog. There seemed little point packing up and hitting the rush hour traffic. Another hour wouldn't hurt. Maybe a breeze would spring up and clear the air.


Fat chance. Half past six seemed as good a time as any to finish. That way I could listen to the Archers in the car. The walk back was weird. The Petzl light was reflecting off the fog making it hard to see more than a few feet ahead. There were no lights visible in the distance to give me any sense of direction so I had to use the headtorch. Even so I nearly managed to stumble into a fence that I knew was there but couldn't see!

The car's thermometer read 5.5c, down from 10 when I had arrived, and it fell further as I journeyed home. The forecast is for more of the same. Sunny days with night-time frosts. Maybe one more try for a barbel tomorrow, when I have the afternoon free, before something more serious over the weekend. One thing's for sure; the bivvy won't be involved.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

That's more like it

It's all too easy to get out of the fishing habit when you have an enforced lay-off. Faced with the choice between home improvements and fishing I narrowed the decision down to roach or barbel.... The river would be well up and coloured, possibly warm enough to get the barbel feeding in earnest, but I've done that before and I wanted to try for some roach. Rain seemed to have passed over for the day and the sun was reflecting dazzlingly off the wet roads as I headed for the hills.

Although a Sunday saw plenty of anglers out and about I managed to get the swim I fancied. Not too surprising as it's a bit awkward to get at. Cosy when in it though. I'd made up some fresh power gum rigs on Saturday night and soon had them tied to the end of my lines. Then it was time to add a feeder and have a few practice casts. Damn. I had no 30g feeders only 50g ones. A little bit much for my Chimera Avons. Beggars can't be choosers so out they went. Not as far as I'd have liked but it would have to do. On with two short hooklinks and time to get started. The first few casts were only left out for a few minutes in order to get a bit of bait out. Each feeder was two-thirds filled with maggots and then topped up with hemp, one rod baited with a single red maggot and the other with one red and one white.

Roach food

Why some people moan about hemp stinking I don't know. I like the smell of it. Roach seem to like it too as it wasn't long before the bobbins started moving. Mostly the right hand one showing the roach seemed to have a preference for the double maggot bait. I was failing to connect with the bobbins on a drop so I set them at the top to show drop-backs. This they did yet I still failed to connect. It wasn't too long before a roach hooked itself though. And not being one to look a gift roach in the mouth I popped it in a bucket while I set up the pike rod that I had forgotten to remove from the quiver from my last session. A rod that just happened to be rigged up with a paternoster and a snap tackle. What a coincidence!

Waiting for a drop-back

Bites were coming steadily to the feeder rods, either within a minute of casting out or just as I was getting ready to recast. The fish weren't getting hooked too often, but it was enough action to maintain my interest. After a couple of hours the bites started coming closer together. A small roach-bream hybrid was landed followed by a couple more roach. Not monsters but only just small enough to swing to hand. Having made a late start it was getting on by now.

A typical roach

A dusk feeding spree was being anticipated. That's when big roach are supposed to come on the feed. It didn't happen. In fact after three o'clock the bites all but ceased. I fished on until half past four without a bite in the last three quarters of an hour. All the while the livebait had also remained untouched and was released when I packed up. I'd expected to tempt a jack if nothing bigger.

Maybe a short session but enjoyable and interesting. Having a sparrowhawk fly past the swim a rod length out was the avian highlight. Watching it get mobbed by seagulls came a close second. I'm already planning another, longer, roach session and have ideas for improving the hook up ratio. Some of the bites set the rod bouncing or were storming drop-backs. How could a roach fail to get hooked against a 50g feeder when the bobbin was moving so far? Unbelievable!

It was dark by the time I got back to the car, a smell in the air that I knew but couldn't place. Behind my car there was a van parked up with its interior light on containing two young men sat smoking. As I got closer the aroma grew stronger. That was when I remembered what it was. Another form of hemp... It's an odd world.

Friday, December 04, 2009


Events conspired against me yet again this week meaning the only chance I'd have was Friday morning. For once I woke early not hearing the wind howling and the rain lashing the bedroom window. Getting up and ready wasn't a chore. The prospect of a pike session on a calm and sunny winter's morn was just what I needed to get me back into the fishing routine while giving me a break from river fishing. By half past six I was heading for The Land That Time Forgot. A place where no matter what the weathermen predict it rains. Where the trees are hung with mosses and lichens. Where the ground is forever sodden.

Sure enough the forecast was for a fine day with rain arriving around six pm. Sitting under the tailgate pulling on my cosy Baffin boots I heard what sounded like the gentle patter of tiny raindrops on the branches above. It couldn't be. It was. On with the waterproofs and down to the water's edge.

Daylight was just breaking as I selected a swim. Not on the shallows nor too deep. Three baits went out, two close in and one a bit further. The day hadn't started well when I found rather fewer dead fish in the freezer than I remembered. My selection wasn't quite what I'd have liked. The next minor setback was finding that the locking screws on two of my banksticks had seized up. Not the end of the world.

There was no wind at all, small fish were dimpling and flipping on the surface, some on the line my baits were cast to. The moon was high in the blue and cloudy sky to the west reminiscent of a Nash landscape.

Baits out, brolly up, brew poured. I was already pining for the ever-changing surface of a river to watch. There was very little in the way of birdlife to keep me interested. A slack handful of tits flitted and twittered in the willows. The highlight being when I was standing staring vacantly into a willow bush and a coal tit landed in it at eye level. That was about it. The sun came out and the day perked up. I started taking photos to relieve the tedium. Looking across the lake the bands of moss and algae on the stones opposite me brought to mind another painter although I'm not sure the photo gets that across.


Another piker had arrived as I had sat down, and within an hour I was photographing a nicely rounded double for him. His second fish of the morning. I began to curse my manky baits - and lack of livebait snatching gear. On a calm day a livey clonking around would have boosted my confidence, had there been a bit of a wave on I'd have been happy with the deads. The roach head had it's float leger rig altered to a paternoster. I drank more tea.

As the tea ran out so did my time. I had to be back home by one. Four and a half hours had passed surprisingly speedily considering how much I wanted to be somewhere else, or fishing for a different species. I've endured more lengthy blanks this year while tench fishing, but I was glad when this one was over. Maybe if I'd been better prepared, or fishing somewhere that doesn't depress me so much, I'd be keener to have another pike session soon. As things stand it might be maggots and stinky cheese on a river, or maggots on a stillwater, next time out. Quite when that will be gets harder to determine. Monday and Tuesday are already write-offs, Saturday is supposed to be wet and windy (again) with Sunday a possibility. Ho, bloody, hum.

Billy's Blankbiters