Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Exciting News

This will be of no significance whatsoever to people who don't know the shop, but to those who do it will come as a huge shock. Ted Carter's is now...

... opening on Thursdays!

Relax, it's only from 10am until 3pm.

No eels

Back for another evening session. This time it was a cooler wind blowing from the west with a hint of north in it. I went to a length of canal where the setting sun wouldn't dazzle me as I bagged up on small fish for bait on the float. That was the inevitable plan. Equally inevitable was its failure.

The first bite came after just five minutes and resulted in a just-right roach resting in the landing net. The next bite came as I thought to myself that it was time to give up and put the one roach out as bait. That bite gave me a not-quite-right roach/bream. It went in the net even so! I blamed my lack of success on the constant activity of the reed and sedge warblers in the reed stems behind my float distracting my attention and stopping me fishing efficiently.

My problem now was how to cut the roach in two. My ever present trusty penknife having removed itself from my pocket. The scissors in my minimalist tackle box are short in the blade. I managed to hack the fish into two and cast the tail close in over some maggots and the head over to the edge of the sparse reeds on the far shelf. That might be dangerous as past experience (circa 1983) was that baits placed there for eels often lead to the fish running into the reedbed and becoming immovable - or, if not hooked, then the rig would snag up irretrievably.

For this session I did away with the mono link between mainline and leader. It seemed superfluous. Again I was fishing tight to the lightly set bait runner. The knotable leader is finished with a loop which goes over the link on a quick-change swivel. This is a nice simple set up. In fact coupled with 12lb mono and my 11ft 2.5lb P-2s, by simply changing the hook link, it could be used for carp, barbel or zander. A minor tweak and 15lb mono or 30lb braid would make it an even better multi-purpose set up.

Right on cue at a minute or two before nine the first run was missed to the head section. The bigger bait was knocked on the head and cut up. It was only a minute or two before that was being taken. Mere twitches on the line which were struck at and missed. Another recast with the head section and it was a longer wait until the far bait was again being inspected. Another missed strike resulted in a lost bait.

Next time I shall be using my light pike drop-offs. That was the approach I used to use for eels, so I can't see why it won't still work. The rig shall be refined slightly with a heavier lead and either a run ring or large eye swivel for the lead. I might even give braid a try. One thing's for certain. I'll be making sure I have a better bait supply in future.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Fishing for eels

Having used up all my frozen roach I bought a pint of maggots yesterday. I can usually winkle out a few flirters in short order from the canal when the weather is like it is at the moment. Spray maggots out and fish a pellet waggler set shallow with a single small shot a few inches from the hook. Cast out and let the float drift around, or inch it back if there's no wind. Not textbook fishing but it finds the shoals of small fish cruising from mid-water to the surface. Once you get a bite fire out more maggots to that spot and recast over them. The fish keep on the move, unless they're tight to a feature like lily pads or gaps in reeds.

This evening it took me fifteen minutes to get the first bite. It was from a skimmer that would have been fine for pike bait, but was bit too big for eels. By my standards at any rate. Although I have caught eels on pike-bait sized deads when piking I like a smaller bait when specifically targeting eels. The second proper bite, I'd had a maggot sucked to a skin, came half an hour later. The bait was borderline but got popped in the landing net in the edge in case it was all I got.

This fish was the cue to make up a wire trace to replace the one that got 'turtled' the other evening. No sooner had I tied the loop in the wire than the float sank again and I swung in a more eel-bait sized skimmer. Time to get the eel rods set up. The head section was cast across to the far shelf, while the tail was dropped just shy of the middle and had a couple of good handfuls of maggots scattered over it. Time to sit back and watch the sun set.

All was quiet until a couple in an inflatable dingy motored along. Considerately they cut the engine and paddled past me, firing the outboard again once they were a good distance away. I had had to wind in the head section as they approached, and it was cast back out.

I had expected the wind to drop today as the sun set, and it did. It was much more pleasant sitting by the canal compared to last time out. The heat from the sun wasn't being dissipated by the breeze. Various flies were benefiting form the lack of wind and some were dancing over the surface of the water. Others were biting my ears.

It was about nine fifteen, and still light, when I reached into my bag to root out my head torch in readiness for the impending dusk. I didn't want to have to try and find the torch in failing light with an eel writhing around on the bank! No sooner had I turned away from the rods when the left hand bobbin twitched a couple of time. I struck straight away and was sure that I was connected to an eel and not some rogue amphibian. It wasn't the biggest eel I've ever caught, weighing a pound and a half, but it was the first one I've caught by design for some time.

The bigger skimmer was despatched and the head section cast out. I was contemplating packing up at ten when I had an absolute screamer on the right hand rod. I was fishing a tight line to a slack baitrunner to see how it would fare and the spool was spinning like a top. My strike met with thin air! I cut the remaining tail section down to size and cast it back over the maggot patch.

By now the only light was the afterglow. It would be all but dark by half ten. At quarter past the right hand rod twitched a couple of times and the bobbin dropped an inch. The bobbin lifted and dropped back. I fed some line to give a longer drop. After a minute or two the bobbin rose in  series of jerks. Another strike failed to connect. One last cast.

 It didn't take long before the Delkim sounded again. This time the line was tight and the bobbin right up. The rod tip was twitching. Nothing developed. I took the rods off the rests and lay them on the reeds while I packed everything else away. With the right hand rod wound in I saw a reed near the right hand rod tip moving. There was no breeze now. The tip moved. then moved again. I struck and felt a brief resistance before the rig flew out of the water. Time for home.

I've always found eels to be frustrating fish when I fish for them. Yet when they pick up pike baits they manage to swallow them and I struggle to remove two sets of trebles. Mind you, they are also pretty good at stripping half mackerel to the bone without giving an indication. Enigmatic they surely are.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

'Eel' fishing

This week I've taken a couple of evening walks down by the canal, camera in hand, looking for bugs and stuff. With the hot weather the canal was looking great. Small fish aplenty topping on the calm surface. The water clarity was good enough to make out lily leaves beginning to form cabbage patches prior to heading for the surface. Not so clear as to be able to see fish swimming about. It all looked very inviting and my thoughts turned to eels.

I was going to buy a pint of maggots to enable me to catch some small fish for bait, but a rummage in the freezer found me enough tiny rudd to get me started for one short evening session.

Yesterday was as hot, if not hotter, than the preceding days. I got my gear together (which didn't take long as not much was required) during the afternoon, and with no rush to arrive, figuring the last hour of daylight would be when action would commence, I left home well after tea.

The stretch I had looked at earlier in the week was my first port of call. I was put off by the strong wind blowing along the canal, and the fact that the bank was in shade. I'd not bargained on being cold! Back in the car and off to a more open stretch where I knew the setting sun would be in my face. Sure enough it was a touch warmer there, although the wind was now off my back.

A swim was picked which gave access to weed free water in front of me with a sparse lily bed on the far bank. I had the rods set up, the hooks baited with half a rudd and cast out by eight o'clock. It would be half an hour or so before the sun would start to cast a shadow on my bank and action might begin. I cracked open the bottle of orange Lucozade and took a swig.

The sun was still high enough in the sky to make me squint when the right hand bobbin jumped up, stopped and jumped again. I struck and was convinced I was into an eel. Whatever it was seemed to be writhing and swimming backwards. A couple of tail splashes on the surface changed my mind. A small pike was soon in the net, unhooked and returned. I was glad I had opted for wire, even if it was of the ProLeader variety.

Not everyone who has tried this leader material has liked it. It's some sort of braided core with braided wire filaments encasing it. I have used it for pike fishing and landed fish with it. Sometimes it's only good for one fish, others it will be fine for two or three. I haven't had it cut through. It is more supple than wire, less prone to kinking, but more likely to tangle. It can be knotted with a Uni-knot or a knotless knot. I had a spool or two lying around and thought it might be useful for eel fishing - using it to make short hook links to attach to a longer mono leader to make a longer. two-piece, leader John Sidley style.

When the sun did sink from view it was time to put the fleece on and wish I'd brought a jacket to keep the wind from cutting through it.

A few fish topped and swirled. Sedge and reed warblers made their usual racket, a peewit cried mournfully behind me and a couple of oyster catchers had a row. As it got further in to dusk a lone bat circled high up. It was almost ten when the left hand bobbin sprang in to life. My strike connected with something that felt a little more eely than the pike had. It wasn't doing any splashing one the top. In the half-light it appeared to be 'balled up' in the way that small eels do when trying to lever themselves off the hook.

Something wasn't right though. Eels don't have feet. They don't make snapping noises either. When I got a good look at what was attached to the end of my line I put the landing net down and contemplated my next move.

That move was to drop the rod as the right hand bobbin was on the rise. Either there was a shoal of turtles in the swim or an eel had arrived. As my strike met with nothing I'll never know.

I returned to the turtle and dragged it onto the bank, put a boot on its shell and pulled the hook free - keeping my fingers a safe distance from it's jaws. It was only the size of a large pie, but I was taking no chances! The hook was actually nicked in the skin of one of the turtle's forefeet and popped out easily enough. Once freed the horrible creature scuttled off trough the reeds and plopped into the water.

Although I rebaited the other rod and cast out again I'd had enough. The turtle hook needed replacing as it had opened out. I really should have made a few more wire traces up in advance.

Well sheltered from the wind, it was an overcoat warmer in the car park. If I could have found a fishing spot to keep out of the wind it would have been okay to fish on into dark. I don't know what it is about the canal, but it gives me the creeps a bit when night falls. The thought of tangling with a turtle by the light of a head torch doesn't fill me with enthusiasm to stop on another hour either!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Repair bodge

This wasn't the first time I'd been given a rod with a rotating reel seat to repair. On two piece rods it's not a big deal to strip of the butt ring and remove any foregrip and the reel seat to do the job properly. On a one-piece lure rod it means a full strip of all the rings, pretty much a complete rebuild. Sometimes there is a bodge possible whereby the rear cork grip is removed and the work done from the butt end. It works out a little cheaper. This was the option I offered the rod's owner.

Another way round the problem is to drill into the reel seat and inject warmed epoxy between reel seat and blank. The seat is usually pushed over rolls of tape with gaps between them. The seat will have come loose because of insufficient glue, and there will be plenty of room for more.

That was my first line of attack. I slowly drilled into the seat using a hand drill. As soon as I was through I had a close look and saw neither an air space, nor tape. Strange. Another hole was drilled with the same result. And a third. It looked to me like the reel seat had been glued directly to the rod blank. In which case there was no way the seat would slide off the bottom of the blank because of the taper, and the full strip down would be required. There was only one way to find out for sure.

As the foregrip would have to come off eventually no matter what I cut a short section of it back and slid the reel seat up. Sure enough it had been glued straight onto the blank, and as shown below, there wasn't much glue actually binding the two together.

With the foregrip being as long as the reel seat I did have one more option open to me. I contacted the owner and suggested a cost cutting bodge which he approved.

Initially I was going to leave the very front portion of the foregrip in place, as below, but after consideration decided it should all go. The blank was cleaned up, tape applied (I don't know why no tape had been used in the first place) and the reel seat glued with sufficient epoxy. This was left to cure while I readied the cork to make the foregrip.

I wouldn't be able to shape the cork once in place so opted for a straight grip with rounded ends. The preformed cork section was cut to length and the bore reamed out to match the taper of the blank. Then I waved my magic wand and it leapt into place as if it had been there all along!

I squashed the cork so it split along its length, applied glue to the blank and the cork which was then placed over the blank and bound tightly with tape. A little sanding to smooth once the glue had set overnight and it was job done.

This bodge isn't always possible. It was the length of the forgrip that made it so in this case. The same cork squashing trick can be used to replace sections of cork which have become damaged mid-handle. One of the benefits of cork over man made grip materials that repairs such as these can be carried out without the join being obvious because of the 'grain' of the cork.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Another three years gone

I still can't get into tench mode. The changeable weather isn't helping. Yesterday, when I was driving to and from the Derby area in radiant sunshine, watching the hawthorn blossom sliding past in the hedgerows, I was eager to get the gear sorted and boil up some hemp. Today I stepped out the back door into another chilly morning and changed my mind. There's also the frustrated urge to fish for something else this spring/summer which isn't coming to fruition for various reasons.

What was I doing in Derbyshire? Attending the PAC's three-yearly committee handover. The newly retired committee have been accused, by the ranks of keyboard warriors, of not doing much for the last three years. Financially they were somewhat restricted in what they could do. A steadying hand was required on the tiller to get the club back on fiscal course.

That they have done what they have done without shouting about it from the roof tops before the event has actually helped their successes. A recent issue involved someone taking pike for sale as food. This was brought to light on the internet and the KWs were out for blood. The PAC acted quietly, under the radar of the internet lynch mob, and got a result. The force of the law was brought to bear on him by a diligent and careful approach from the PAC. The seller had to remove mention of pike from his website.

The new committee is brimful of enthusiasm and ideas to drive the club forward in this modern age of instant communication. The vision is to be applauded. If it all gets pulled together and pulled off as planned the club will have a superb virtual presence. Whether that will result in an increase in real membership is another matter. An old cynic like me will have an interesting time watching things develop over the next three years!

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Off the wall

It's that time of year when rod orders slow up and I have free time on my hands, especially when I can't summon up the energy to go fishing. So I dig out stuff I've had lying around and mess about. When I ordered butt caps from the 'States I also got something whacky. A trigger grip reel seat painted with skulls. I have no idea why!

There was an unpainted Axiom blank lying around so I thought I'd see what I could do with the pairing. The photos here are only a dry run. I've not made my mind up yet, but I am thinking that chrome framed rings whipped in black tipped with silver might suit the concept. Not to mention a skull and crossbones decal on the blank between the grips!