Tuesday, July 30, 2019

It's becoming a blur


The weather's been a bit up and down since the 'heatwave' ended, during which my enthusiasm for eel fishing was diminished because it was too hot to think, let alone move. One decent eel does not a summer make, which was why I have been trying to get in more short evening sessions after the slippery customers. Fishing from eight until I've had enough suits me these days, and as I avoid rainy days I can travel sans brolly to keep the weight down. If I didn't keep a diary of sorts it would be difficult to remember the sequence of events when fishing every two or three evenings. Diary's, even when a mere list of fish caught on given dates, keep you straight when recounting tales of good catches. Without them unwitting exaggeration and embellishment are all too easy. Diaries and accurate scales (with correct weighting techniques) might be why I don't catch as many monsters as some people. I suppose there's also a (slim!) chance that I'm just not very good at catching big fish...

After putting two eels in the sling in on session the temptation to fish the same swim again was strong. I managed to resist it and fished a different swim but casting to the same general area on my next outing. I was stocked up with a bulk supply of worms and had taken a couple of deadbaits along to put out on a third (matched) rod.

It took less than an hour to hook the first eel. A bootlace. Ten minutes later a slightly bigger one was landed. Both worm rods, fishing legered and off-bottom rigs, were getting action. The inevitable twitches and pulls. It wasn't until well after ten that I managed to connect with any. Two more small eels. I gave up just before midnight.

A few days later I was back, in another swim close to the same area but covering more open water. The baits had only been in position for ten minutes when the legered worm was taken. One of those absolutely unmissable runs with a 'resistance shy' eel making the baitrunner spin like fury. There was nothing there when I struck. How do they do that? It's easy to think it's small eels that haven't got the hook in their mouth but have hold of the worms. But...


More takes ensued, of varying degrees of aggressiveness. I moved the baits around to cover features and open water. At ten to eleven there was a steady take, after some twitching, to the off-bottom worms fished out in no man's land. This time the strike was successful. The resistance on the end made me ready the net. Sure enough the sling and scales were called for, although the eel wasn't as large as it had first felt. A tiny bootlace which messed up the leger rig just before midnight decide me to call it quits.

Two nights later I arrived to discover that my worm tub was still at home. That meant either giving up or going back for the bait. As conditions felt right and I was feeling keen I made the round trip with plenty of time to get set up before dark. I had a change of scenery and fished a different area. One bootlace just on dark was all I had to show for it despite many plucks and runs and staying on until quarter to one. It was back to the previous swim to cast to different areas a couple of days on.

This time it didn't take long for the worms to get attention. Even so it was almost ten thirty before an eel was landed. Another bootlace to the leger. Using worms does mean lots of attention from small eels. But at the moment the deadbaits I'm using aren't getting any attention. A very occasional single bleep on the Delkim, but that's about it. Perhaps it's the bait selection? A slightly larger bootlace which tangled my rig a few minutes after midnight decided me that it wasn't a big fish night. Well, it seemed like a good enough excuse to leave.

There hasn't been much in the way of wildlife activity on these sessions besides the grown mallard brood. Every so often a reed warbler will fly across the front of my swim or a moorhen will show itself. Dusk usually sees a small group of swallows and martins pay a visit as they head off somewhere to roost. The starling flock grows slowly as it drops in to the same reed patch each evening between eight and nine. On the sultry evenings a brown hawker will call by to feast on the midges hovering over the reed tops as the light fades.


All those bait nibbling bootlaces had diminished my worm supply, so I went for fresh stock yesterday. The forecast after the wet weekend was fairly good. The day had been warm and dry but there was a chance of rain after midnight with more to come midweek. I took the gamble. Swim choice is always difficult. There seems to be a weight of opinion that fishing the same swim time after time for eels only produces diminishing returns. I wonder if they are like pike in that the biggest fish on a spot can often be caught first, followed by the smaller ones? Is it worth going back to swims which have produced small eels initially in the hope bigger ones might move in, or are there small eel swims?

Stuck for ideas I returned to a swim from a few sessions earlier which had given me bootlaces. One which had produced a couple of decent eels for me a couple of years ago. After retying my trace knots - something I always do when using mono main lines - and re-jigging my off bottom rig which got slimed on my previous session I was in action by eight thirty, tucked in the reeds out of the breeze.

Action was slow coming. When I heard a carp crash out I started thinking about an overnighter with the bolt rigs. The first take to the off bottom worms at ten fifteen put an end to that nonsense. Fifteen minutes later there was some drizzle. I checked the sky behind me and it looked like the wet stuff wouldn't last long. It didn't.

While there wasn't much activity I was getting takes to both worm rods. Mostly dithery lifts and falls with one take to the leger which took line. Briefly. There's nothing like a tub full of worms to keep me refreshing the hookbaits. I'm sure fresh worms are more attractive than limp ones. Many times I have had teh bobbin pulled from my fingers as I try to set it after a recast. How eels home in on worms like that I do not know.

It was half past eleven when the legered worm, on a long cast, was picked up and the bobbin twitched up then down. After a second or two it lifted again and the spool spun. I had been poised ready and struck. Mild panic ensued as I couldn't think which side of the rod pod would be best to place the net. I don't like pods but few swims are stick friendly on this water, and many swims are quite tight too. Apod is also quick to set up for short sessions. When I have the room and soft banks it's individualy sticks every time.

The eel was starting to feel less impressive as it got closer. At one point I thought it had shed the hook. However it had done that eel tick of swimming towards me. This can be a real bugger if it happens at the net. I kept winding and reconnected with the fish on the surface. Then the fun of getting it in the net began. The cobbled together 50 incher is a lot easier to use than the old 42 inch job. Eels can still manage to avoid it at the crucial moment though! but not this time.

Another one which had shrunk by almost half between being hooked and netted it was still worth a weigh and a photograph.


The hook had got stuck in the net and the trace cut so it was a few minutes before I had that rig back out. The other two rods had been knocked during the netting procedure owing to the narrow swim. They got repositioned. By the time all was back in order and I was sat down again I heard rain starting to sizzle in the reeds. I checked the sky once more and this time it looked black over Bill's mother's. Time to pack up and get away before I got soaked.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Frustrating eels part 946

Every time I have a blank eel session I say it's the last time I'll fish for the bloody creatures. Friday evening was no exception. It seemed like results, if they can be called results, were diminishing with each trip. From a high of non-stop twitches and pulls through lessening takes it had come to complete inactivity. yet the day had been hot and conditions looked good. Same baits as last time, same rigs. I couldn't work it out.There was  one, mournful, single bleep from a Delkim. But I doubt that had anything to do with eels.


Things were so desperate I considered cutting off the eel rigs and tying on some that might catch me c*rp, tench or bream. Whether it was sense, stubbornness or stupidity which prevailed I'm not sure but Saturday saw me picking up a small tub of worms with the intention of using them on Sunday after the Cricket World Cup Final. That plan was kiboshed by the excitement of the match and the ensuing celebrations which left me in no state to do anything much. It would have to be Monday instead.

I'd been watching the moon for a few evenings and something about it was making me think my eel prospects might be improving. Monday had been hot and still. As I settled in to my chosen swim the sky began to turn cloudy as the waxing, almost full, moon rose. I'd barely set the bobbin on the legered worm rod when the one on the off bottom rig signalled action. Fifteen minutes later it was the leger bobbin signalling eely interest. And so things progressed. The inevitable frequent twitches, pulls and even runs from bootlaces when fishing a couple of dendrobenas on the hook. It was going to be another evening of annoyance with nothing to show for it but an empty worm tub.

I listened to the reed and sedge warblers making their raspy calls. Spent a few minutes watching a willow warbler (or was it a chiffchaff) working its way around a willow less than six feet from me. And got an early sense of approaching autumn as starlings gathered before settling with a gently chattering rustle in the reeds opposite me.

At ten to ten I had the surprise of feeling something wriggling on the end of the line when I struck after a series of twitches to the off bottom bait. An eel at last! Not much of an eel, but an eel. It did rather confirm my suspicions that the twitches and pulls were from similarly sized pests.

By now it was gloomy enough to need the head torch to tie up a new hooklength. I had pelnty of wire hooklengths made up but none with the hooks I prefer for worm baits tied to the Kevlar braid I use. It didn't take long to have one attached, baited and back out.

It was ten fifteen when yet another burst of activity came to the off-bottom worms. Slightly more positive twitches which when struck at met solid resistance. This time I reached for the landing net. Having made myself a 50 inch net a couple of summers ago it hadn't been put to the test before. This was the sort of eel I wanted it for and it went in first time. Phew!

With the net secured the scales, sling and camera were sorted out ready. The eel had unhooked itself in the net so there wasn't much wrestling needed to get it in the sling and weighed.

A few snaps taken of it laid alongside rod and scales as it wasn't quite big enough to warrant a selfie and back it went in the swim next door.

There wasn't much chaos to sort out so the rebaited  rig was soon back out. It was only half an hour later when the worms on that rod set off on a steady run. Again the strike was into something solid. This one took two attempts to net and needed the forceps to flick the hook out. The scales were also required, and I almost got the camera back out but didn't.

By now the worm supply was diminished. The remaining worms being small and miserable looking. Five minutes after returning the third eel of the evening the legered worm was taken and my strike met with thin air. But asI wound the rig in I made contact with another wriggling bootlace. This one was unhooked and returned before the last of the worms were used on the hook.

Whether these last few worms weren't appealing or the eels had switched off I'll never know, but the alarms remained silent. I was kicking myself for not bothering to take the deadbait bag out of the freezer. Then again the eels might have ignored deadbaits like they had on the previous session.

Fishing has a habit of keeping you guessing and scratching your head. Was the change in success down to the worms, the conditions, the swim choice? Worms do seem to get an almost instant response and this session proved that twitchy takes aren't always from tiny eels. Then again fish baits have done well for me on this venue in the past. maybe the moon played a part as atmospheric conditions weren't notably different to previous nights. Probably the most likely reason for my change of fortune was my deliberate decision to use a pair of matched rods instead of my mismatched set from my earlier sessions. The odd rod stayed in the quiver. Yes. I'm sure that was it.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

More pond, less fish

The pond has been reshaped, the liner fitted and the rock pile moved. The tadpoles survived the transfer process and some have become tiny frogs and left the scene, the newts have returned.




Within days of the pond being refilled midges and other flies were laying eggs and soon midge larvae were in evidence. While clearing some duckweed I scooped out a tiny pond snail. Where did they come from? A more understandable visitor has been a female broad bodied chaser flitting over the water and perching nearby in the hot sun which has materialised at last.


The more summery weather has lured me out for a few evenings trying to catch eels. This has proved more frustrating than usual. Using worms I suffered a session of endless takes, connecting with none. So many takes that I dropped down to two rods for the next session which saw a switch to deadbaits, naturally resulting in fewer takes but one eel briefly felt on the strike. Next time out the deads were relatively unmolested in 'perfect' warm and muggy conditions. I'll keep trying, although the temptation to put one rod out for 'anything that swims' is growing just so I can catch something. Anything would do!



Saturday, May 25, 2019

Fishing and the pond

I've almost got the fishing bug again. I'm sure I would have got it back if the three sessions I've had feeling full of enthusiasm hadn't all resulted in abject failure!

The first two were short lure flinging trips that were probably a little early. Although the days were warm the nights were cool and as well as the water not having warmed up I think the pike might not have been on the prowl following spawning.

I don't think that my plan to stick to 'retro' lures, ones which got a lot of use back in the earlier days of the big lure boom, that was the cause of my failure. A good lure then is still a good lure. The pike certainly won't have seen many of them! One half hearted slash at a bucktail spinner from a hammer handle was all the action I managed.


More recently with the lily pads spreading and the water warm to the touch I tried a few hours going into darkness for eels. I knew I'd be guaranteed some action. I was. The usual frustrating action that comes with fishing bunches of worms. Not one of the many takes, ranging from the twicthy to the 'unmissable' run, was connected with.

What was interesting, however, was that most of the takes came from open water. The bait positioned near overhanging branches was untouched, the off-bottom bait near some pads which had produced the first two takes  was relatively unmolested. It was the bait cast out to no particular feature that kept getting mauled. I was going to have a return match with the eels last week, but when I looked there were only enough worms for two hookbaits and it was too late to get any more. I could have done some digging, I suppose. That way the pond restoration could have been progressed and some bait acquired. Although the ground has dried and hardened.

The pond being cleared  ready for the liner removal.
I pulled the leaking liner out of my wildlife pond last autumn and had intended to get a replacement liner in over the winter but the hole in the ground filled with water which was still deep by the time the frogs returned and it stayed that way long after they had spawned, departed and there were tadpoles. The recent dry stretch has seen the level drop rapidly, to the point where there were almost more tadpoles than water!

Linerless and being reprofiled before the frogs arrived
When the frogs had gone and the water cleared I was fortunate to spot a newt. Then another. And another. In total I saw five newts. Definitely five individuals as I counted them all at the same time. There might have been more lurking in the leaf litter on the bottom. I netted a couple out to confirm the species.


The newts seemed to have disappeared by the time I got my new liner and was ready for action. However when I was clearing the pond edge I saw what I took to be a dead one. Stiff legged and on its back I picked it up and paced it on a rock. I went inside to get a camera to take a photo or two but when I returned the newt had crawled part way under the stone! I thought its eye looked bright for a corpse. It must have been playing dead as a predator avoidance technique.



What to do with the tadpoles? The only solution I could think of was to scoop them out and hold them in buckets along with some pond sludge and leaf litter. Then get the liner in and part filled with tap water before putting the taddies and original water in too.



Rather than tip all the sludge in the pond I decided to leave that in the buckets in the pond while everything settles for a day or two.


The next stage is to finish off fitting the liner, which is rather too large so I might extend part of the pond, before starting to add pond plants.

Monday, April 15, 2019

11ft 2lb Torrix rods for sale

Having no plans for any tench or bream fishing this spring I've decided to part with my three 11ft 2lb Torrixes. If I change my mind I've still got my trusty Interceptors.

Build is abbreviated Duplon with matt woven carbon insert DPS reel seats and black nylon butt button, metallic purple tipping at the handle whippings, hook keeper on left hand side, and Fuji BMNAG Alconite rings (25-8 six plus tip) in Rover Ringing style.

Cast two ounce heli-rigs and feeders well and have landed carp to 17lb so will cope with any tench that swims!

This build would be £245 each. Asking £480 including £20 UPS delivery for the three.





Saturday, March 30, 2019

More pike pics from the past

The BullDawg revolution in full swing.


 One of two thirties I netted for Nige Grassby one day in Scotland.


The second day Chew Valley was open to pike anglers. Pike soup!


Friday, March 29, 2019

More piking nostalgia

I've been in the slide archive again. Not in serious digitising mode, just some random scans.

The late Dave Scarff catching pike on his first hand-made jerkbaits in the days when 'big 'lures' were new, exciting and revolutionary.




 Getting ready for the off on a PAC Heartclic event.


More to come at irregular intervals!

Monday, February 25, 2019

Second time lucky

When I backed the car out after lunch today it went into gear. As well it might having had a new clutch fitted last week. The weather conditions were still confusing for February. The car's thermometer read 15 degrees and there were daffodils in bloom at the lake. I was so sure of the weather forecast I left my brolly and bunny suit at home. The bunny suit was a risk as I knew that as soon as the sun put its pyjamas on normal February temperatures would return. By then I'd be ready for off.

A brief walk to have a look around for other angers and I was on my way. I walked on past a swim I had in mind to give a try intending to fish it on my way back. I even walked further than I'd planned and settled into a cosy swim sheltered from the light southerly breeze by tall reeds. Two standby baits, a lamprey head and a bluey tail got cast to likely looking spots while a small smelt a firned had given me was dropped in the margin to my right. I'm not a fan of smelt but it allowed me to have three different baits in the water.

The smelt had only been soaking for ten minutes when the float slid away. I was stunned! On setting the hooks there was little resistance. When the hammer handle popped up it was obvious why. Rather than get the landing net wet I chinned the rascal out. Small as it was that jack meant I hadn't blanked this year. One with a fresh, and slightly larger, smelt and back to business.

I was allowing myself an hour in each of four swims, moving baits around every fifteen to thirty minutes in each swim. With this process duly completed I moved to a swim which always looks like it should be a good one for pike, but has yet to provide me with one. Today was no exception despite giving it a little longer than the hour.

Next stop would be the spot I'd walked past earlier on. With the sun lower and the water there in shade it felt less appealing. I have a bit of a thing about fishing sunlit water in winter and avoiding shaded areas. Quite possibly a daft thing, but it gives me confidence. I carried on to what was supposed to be the fourth swim of the day. I'd stick it out there until I'd had enough.

This area has produced for me in the past. The trouble with that is there's the temptation to put baits in the same places pike have been caught from on earlier occasions. In some ways this is sensible, in others it eliminates the chance of finding better spots. So it was smelt in the margin, bluey tail to the feature on my left (which has yet to produce for me) and lamprey head to what would be the edge of a lily pad bed if it was summer.

By now the wind was dropping and the lake calming off. Coots and moorhens were getting active, there having been little in the way of bird activity earlier despite the warmth. My fleece was definitely required and I was glad of the lined trousers as I watched the clear sky turn pale shades of pink and blue.

The lamprey float dipped, wobbled, then sank as the alarm sounded. With line running steadily off the baitrunner I wound straight down and connected with what felt like a better fish than the first one. There was weight to it but no fight until it came in close where it did some head shaking and rolling before it hit the back of the net. It was when the net was staked out that the pike came to life.


With the weigh sling soaked and wrung out and the mat laid on some level ground the fish continued to fight. The free treble found the net and, after I'd unhooked the other treble from the fish, one of my fingers. Once in the damp sling things calmed down. My guestimate as I'd lifted the fish in the net was proved accurate by the scales. A fish with a full belly by the look of it, but not bloated with spawn. That it was showing signs of previous captures took a little of the shine off events, but it was still good to catch and recaptures are part of fishing small (and large) waters. Better a slightly tatty fish than none at all.

I fished on until six leaving while there was still a good fifteen minutes of light left. Maybe if I had taken the bunny suit I'd have stopped longer. Somehow I doubt it. My mission had been accomplished.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Slight return, and disappearance, of the mojo

Maybe it was scanning some old slides. Maybe it was the warming sun. Whatever it was I filled my flask with tea, checked over the contents of my rucksack and sling, put some baits in a cool bag and loaded the lot into the back of my car yesterday around one. Then I donned my bunny suit and boots, jumped in the car and reversed onto the street. Where the car promptly refused to go into gear. Any gear.

The minor slope into my gateway was too much for me. If Brenda from next door hadn't come to my rescue and helped me push the bloody thing I'd have left it in the middle of the road. Car unpacked, garage phoned, mojo well and truly departed. I'm convinced cars know when you're thinking of changing them and deliberately break down making you waste money on them in the hope you'll hang on to them a bit longer. Or perhaps this was a sign that's it's time to put the rods away for good? Somehow I doubt that.

In a bid to keep this blog active I've been considering telling some tales from the dim and distant past. Scanning slides was a precursor to that. When, or if, this will happen I don't know. It'll mean digging out the slides and the diaries to make semi-accurate accounts of some memorable days pike fishing in the last century and this. Don't hold your breath though!

In the meantime some pics from the past.