Friday, February 28, 2014

Anniversary pike

With the last day of February looming, and the weather forecast to be settled for a few days - settled as in not raining or blowing a hooligan - I thought I'd celebrate the 32nd anniversary of my first two double figure pike with an early start.

Scraping frost off the windscreen was a novelty for me this winter. Partly because crispy wintry mornings have been few and far between, also because I've not made many early starts!

The frost wasn't heavy enough to turn the churned up paths solid, so I still slipped and slid my way to the first peg of the day, getting the first bait out before the eastern sky had begun to glow red and while the tawny owls were still hooting to each other.  By the time I had the second bait in the water I was able to put the head torch away and pour the first cup of flask tea and the robins and blackbirds were finishing their dawn songs.

It was a pleasant change for the water to be unruffled by wind. Equally pleasant not to feel the chill factor the wind generates. Blue tits and wrens flitted about, a lone fieldfare flew over high up making it's raucous call. Four cormorants thought better of landing. The pair of mute swans mutely slept. The right hand float wobbled and fell over.

When I wound down, just as last time, the pike wasn't where I expected it to be and was closer tom me than the float. Clearly lightly hooked the pike saved me the job of digging out my forceps once it hit the net Not big enough to warrant weighing, carrying a few leeches on its head,  I took some snaps of it in the net before it leaped over the net cord and away. I hadn't blanked. A step in the right direction after my previous two sessions.

Half an hour later a move was in order. This time to a swim I hadn't fished before. With one rod in the margins I started plumbing around with the second rod. I'd just found a clear spot and was about to stick the bait back on the hooks when the float moved. The pike seemed indecisive, stopping and starting, so I hit it anyway. A fish of four or five pounds shot to my left before throwing the bait. Back out it went, and I started chucking my perch pattern Squirrely Burt around. When I thought I'd thoroughly covered the swim and was about to give up a rooter of a jack nailed it, did the spinning act and fell off. The joey mackerel went out to the clear spot.

I thought that was about it and started planning my final move when the margin float became animated again. Another indecisive take, followed by a repeat performance from another small pike (possibly the same one) that was hooked by one treble on its snout. I knew the hook would shake free. Which it did the instant I dropped the landing net in the water. The sun was breaking through the haze and I was soon on my way to my final swim where I spent an idle hour drinking the last of my tea before heading to the tackle shop for more bait. I'm hoping that these small pike showing up, and their finicky takes, don't mean that the bigger fish will have switched off prior to spawning just when I've got my pike mojo back.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Roll on spring

This run of wet and windy weather is getting on my nerves. It put me right off fishing for a while, so much so that when a dry day coincided with me having free time I've either stayed home or gone out with the camera. This situation hasn't been helped by my equally annoying run of blanks.

A fortnight ago I spent a perfect last few hours of daylight roving in ideal conditions without dropping on a pike. Someone else managed a couple, so I knew I wasn't far off. I think I might have moved once too often. I stuck it out until it was dark enough for the rats to come out. When one climbed a tree in my swim I knew it was time to leave.

Today I had planned to work but the sunshine and general springlike feel to the day made me think fishing was a better option. I spent half an hour in one swim before moving with the intention of sitting in one place until daylight had left. If roving had stopped working then the waiting game might.

Before settling in I chucked a Squirrely Burt around. It didn't take many casts before I felt a thump, saw a flash of pale silvery green followed by a swirl and a splash... and the lure coming back tangled with the leader. It looked about the size of the jack that lives in that swim! A few casts in the other direction produced a quick knock that definitely wasn't weed. There were at least two pike in the vicinity.

The regulation float legered lamprey head got dropped in the right hand margin while I did something different wit the left hand rod. The dreaded Bellars rig had a joey attached to the hooks. I don't know why I keep using this rig. It casts like crap and I never get a take on it. But it presents a bait over the last of the weed.

What had been a light breeze on the opposite bank became a cold wind where I was sat. Then a shower blew in forcing me to put the brolly up. With the wind in my face I had to tie the brolly to a tree and lose sight of one of the rods. The shower passed over so I took the thing down again.

The sun had almost set, although the light had started to fade when the cloud cover arrived, when the lamprey float moved and drifted in and under the rod. Then it stopped moving as I picked the rod up. I wasn't too sure if the pike had dropped the bait, or if it hadn't where it was. It was certainly close in. I hate striking when pike are almost under the rod end, the angle of pull isn't good for setting the hooks. I took up the slack and felt the fish before I expected to. My rushed attempt at striking met brief resistance followed by a second glimpse for the day of silvery green. This time a rather larger glimpse. There was still over an hour of the day left. I was still in with a chance.

The rubbish rig was swapped to a float leger. This proved to have been a bad move because when I wound the joey in to pack up it was swaddled in weed. I'd nearly popped it up, but didn't. Idiot. The lamprey, while weed free remained untouched. Two good chances and a third slight one and I'd botched them all. For a moment the blurry sight of the bigger fish got me thinking of a return trip in the morning. The return of the rain put paid to that daft idea. I'm starting feel like I'm going through the motions and to pine for tench weather so I can give up this pike fishing lark for another season.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Follow the link

Nothing to report here - fine weather saw me tied up with work, foul weather sees me sitting at home keeping out of that wind which seems to have been blowing all winter. I you're desperate to read some of my words of 'wisdom' click through to The Pike Pool. I didn't caption the photos!

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

A weather window

Last time out wasn't worth blogging. A few hours up until dark for one dropped run right at the death. Then the rubbish weather set in and when there was a dry day I was tied up. Yesterday was set to be the best day of the week with no rain forecast and sunshine. The wind was the only thing putting me off. So I planned to stop in and work.

Spot the float!
Around late morning my mood changed. Work had got done quickly and I'd sorted out a long standing problem. I felt buoyant and the urge came upon me. Even so the idea was to potter around  tidying some loose ends and fish for the last two or three hours. Once lunch was out of the way I found myself on autopilot, filling the flask, sorting out fresh deadbaits and loading the car.

After a wander around checking out swims I went back to the car for the gear and set off to snuggle up in a reed lined swim with the wind off my back. Three quarters of an hour later I was restless and soon on the move. Not far. A couple of swims along in an even cosier spot.

It was a classic bright February day. One with a faint hint of spring. The sky blue, the clouds white and fluffy, the reeds glowing in the sunlight. The only thing missing were the pike. After another forty-five minutes I was moving again to a swim I'd passed earlier which had yet to provide me with a pike. While I was sheltered from the wind the floats weren't and were soon rocking on the ripples. I sat back and poured a brew from the flask. The right hand float rocked a little too vigorously and began to move towards the overhanging willows. Cup down, rod picked up and I wind into something very solid feeling. It kites out from potential trouble staying deep and still feeling weighty. When a four pounder pops up I'm scratching my head. The bottom hook in a pectoral rood and the top treble in a branch explained it! Although small the pike was plump, and carrying a few leeches. A typical sight at this stage of the season.

The lamprey head had been out on the last session and was now washed out. I chopped another lamprey in two and lobbed the rig back to the tree line. I moved the smelt for good measure. It wasn't long after I finished my brew that I got the urge to move again. I had three choices. One really sheltered swim, one where the wind was blowing across and I'd be sheltered but the floats would take a battering, or the third where I'd have to hide behind a spindly hawthorn and the floats would be at the mercy of the wind. The second choice had given me that dropped run last time out, so it might have been worth a shot. Nonetheless I plumped for braving it in the face of the wind. There had been a few light spots of rain from a passing cloud, and although the sky was filling in it didn't look like rain was imminent.

The lamprey head went out to the right, close in, the smelt further out to the left. The flask was cracked open once more. The floats were nodding away in time to the ripple. The brew was finished when the right hand float nodded and lost its balance before magically heading into the wind. The baitrunner began to purr as I made sure I didn't lose my balance and topple into the water as I made my way to the rod.

Either I'd connected with another branch trailing jack or this was a better fish. Once netted after a short but splashy fight I could see it was a double. It had been worth turning out. Thoughts of breaking out the roach gear, which I'd had earlier, faded and pike filled my thoughts. Was that it for the swim? Should I have one more move and spend the last half hour of daylight in the cosiest swim? I was tempted. Not least because my cheeks were burning from the wind and there was only one more cup of tea left. I decided to stick it out.

There hadn't been much birdlife in evidence. A couple of Canada geese, the inevitable coots and a mallard or two. Birds often keep a low profile when the wind is strong. That last cup of tea was poured and a kestrel flew overhead, a silhouette in the fading light. A thin crescent moon high in the sky did nothing to hold back the oncoming darkness. There was still enough light in the sky to enable me to see the floats on the water though. Just as the point had been reached when the colour drains from the float tops and the turn black one disappeared from view as the Delkim lit up brightly red and the sounder box burbled. This time I forgot to take care getting to the rod, but still managed to stay on dry land. I had no idea where the pike had headed when I wound down to it. To the right and out from the bank was the answer. A swirl on the surface made me think that I had something bigger than the last one on, the dangling lamprey made me want to net her at the first attempt. This I did and while she lay trapped in the net while I got the weighing gear sorted she managed to unhook herself.

I'd been right to stop where I was. The scales revealed my biggest of the winter so far, a well filled out February pike to boot. Carrying a few leeches too. Maybe that spell after Christmas when I was struggling a bit was because the pike had gone dormant and I'd dropped on them shortly after they had started their pre-spawn feed up? Or perhaps it was that moon? I don't really care what the explanation is. I'd had a good session that had recharged my piking batteries. Here's hoping that this mild winter doesn't lead to the pike going into pre-spawn mode early like they did the other winter when the end of season bonanza I was anticipating fizzled out in a spate of micro jacks and finicky dropped takes. It might.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

One track mind

When I have my fishing head on all I want to do is fish. These days it doesn't take much rain to knock that head off! January was a blooming wet month. Whenever I had time free to fish it rained. When I didn't it was fine. Maybe if I was in the mood for putting the brolly up and taking a stove to brew up and fry bacon on I'd have been more inclined to do some fishing. But I really enjoy being mobile, and hate moving swims in the wet. The upside is that I've been busy with work, so I've not had all that much time. I've even been enjoying working, as I do when I have rods to build with specs other than the run of the mill.

An ALPS reel seat wouldn't be my choice for a pike rod, lovely though they are. I think they are intended for use on spinning and fly rods intended for use chasing hard fighting fish in the tropics. The double locking rings ensure the reel won't come loose and the design ensures the reel can't twist in the reel seat. Being machined from aluminium they are heavy, and cold to the touch in a UK winter!

The rubberised cork is a nice enough cosmetic touch - although it's a bit of a pain to work with. I must say that the burgundy thread (that Talbot which I'm getting closer to running out of) looks well on a brown X-1 blank.
Black thread with copper tipping has always appealed to me on brown blanks, it even looks good on natural carbon, so I knew that would be fine on a custom Duellist. I knew the handle configuration would look good, in a traditional way, and be functional at the same time.

There has also been an interesting, if fiddly, refurb job alongside other unusual builds (blue thread anyone?), but these are the two I took photos of.

As is often the case these days when my fishing head falls off it gets replaced by my photography head. The advantage of photography being that I can get out and take a few shots in a smaller window of free time than I like for fishing. Even an hour can be enough. The last hour of daylight can be fruitful. Doing that a few times a week gets my mind working on a visual rather than a piscatorial track. Which means that when I do get more than an hour spare I'm itching to fill it photographically - even though it can be just as frustrating as fishing!