Thursday, 15 March 2018

One To Forget

Another river season comes to an end and perhaps for the last time. It hasn't ended with a bang for me though and I suspect many others have suffered similar fates.

I had planned a final Sunday afternoon outing and the snow melt was dropping out nicely over the week. A deluge at the back end of the week killed off all hopes though and my season was over. I couldn't summon up any enthusiasm for an almost nailed on blank.

For what it's worth, three sessions are missing from the records so I'll get them noted down for completeness.

The first was a bonus chilly Friday afternoon session after zander. I had a hospital visit at midday and it seemed like a good idea to use up some time owed to me straight after.

Settling into my peg I was accosted by a non-member (not fishing) intent on asking all manner of questions, interspersed with dubious claims. He once caught a 15lb Avon zander apparently. I naturally congratulated such a fine catch. He then said it was the biggest caught that year, but it didn't count because he didn't have any authentic scales. Guesswork posing as fact then! Why do I attract them?!

I certainly didn't need any scales or guesswork for my endeavours though. Two dropped takes were all I could muster and it left me musing over my rigs.

Two days later I returned again for another short session with a different and very sensitive set up. Floats and heavy gear dispatched in favour of a lighter swing tip approach, with a small olivette being the only additional item beyond the trace itself.

I  managed two proper takes. One was battled for about 20 seconds before the single hook was spat back at me. A very zander like fight for sure. The other resulted in a strike into thin air. Beaten by the zeds again.

And then it went cold. Very cold. I know it's bad when fishing boots and headgear starts going to work with me. It was damn raw in the wind. I even got a snow day off work, but this time I saw sense and continued with some decorating. Fortunately my next short, and ultimately season ending session, came just as the thaw was kicking in. Some snow was still around, but temperatures were really on the rise.

One swing tip rod for zander and a float set up for pike. The zed rig swung into action quite quickly and with a confident take. A thin air strike followed. Most odd. No more takes on that rod either. I avoided the blank well inside the last hour with a small snow jack.

That was to be the final act of a largely forgettable campaign. If you'd have said back in June that I'd end with a snow fish, I'd have been quite content. However, there's lots in between that I'd much rather overlook.

I had a nice 10lbs+ barbel on bonfire night, which actually ended a fairly barren spell. From that point on I caught just 6 fish in the rest of the season. 16 sessions (mostly short in all fairness), with 11 of them being blanks. One of those fish was also foul hooked with no bait.

Pike have been a real disappointment. Usually my staple fishing diet over the winter, they seem to have been very quiet across the board this year. I didn't even manage a double and that's a first for the nine seasons I've been predator fishing.

The weather has no doubt been a major factor this season. In the Midlands it was very dry right up to December, leading to low and clear rivers. From the onset of the first proper snowfall, things have been tricky ever since. Catching the river and weather just right, was very hit and miss - often impossible for once a week angler like myself.

Hopes of a top 2 spot in the Blogger's Challenge river section were left floundering after the Christmas wash out. In all honesty, good conditions or not, the impressive late charge by Brian Roberts would have been beyond me anyway. James Denison remains in a different league! Well done to both.

My river fish of the season was probably an eel. I didn't think I'd be saying that! At 3lb 5oz it more than doubled my previous best and was a nice pay back for the faith and patience I show towards the Anker.

The Avon barbel continue to impress me, even though I don't target them to any great extent. The half a dozen I banked this year combined to give an average size of just over 9lb. The range was 7lb 9oz to 11lb 1oz.

Best of the season
Plans for next season are already in place. One ticket renewed back in January, with two others to follow in May / June. A couple of tickets will be dropped temporarily, but they can easily be picked up over the counter if I have a change of mind.

A ticket for a new stretch of the Anker has also arrived this week and I expect it to feature heavily next season. It's a river that frustrates and intrigues me in equal measure. Small in stature, but it contains some quality fish. It's a bit of a blind punt this one, but that's part of the appeal. Going somewhere new and having to figure it out from scratch. I can't wait to get stuck in.

I'll continue over the closed season in a limited way. I have some canal fishing eyed up in a couple of locations and a stillwater that I need to explore. Let's hope the weather picks up soon. Not likely this weekend though - another chilly, if brief, blast heading our way I believe.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Toughing it Out

February has proved to be tough so far - damn tough actually. The weather has certainly played its part. All over the shop really, but that's winter I guess.

Three sessions to catch up on. The first a bitter cold afternoon with a wind to cut you in two. Bumping into Danny at the fishery entrance, I was keen to hear something favourable from his exploits. No such luck! Predators not showing. Not good when that's all you've come for.

Still, I always like to be optimistic and I was beyond the point of no return really. A full on slop fest across the meadow and I opted for the most sheltered peg in my preferred area. An umbrella for a wind break helped to keep some of the chill off me.

A canoeist appeared just before I dropped in my first rig for a depth check. A quick adjustment and back in for a second check a little further out. Looked OK so I reeled in and it fought back.

Hang on - I hadn't baited the hook! It took me by surprise. The fish were supposed to be scarce afier all - not crawling up my rod!

Only a jack and hooked just above the eye. I was using a large single hook for zander and most likely just dropped it plumb above the fish and foul hooked on the retrieve. Judging by the number of leeches, it had been pretty dormant.

And that was it. With baited hooks, not a single bite to speak of. A pretty miserable afternoon in all honesty. An annoying off road biker (with incredibly noisy bike) was in the fields behind me at various times. Guns were going off constantly too. Not really a peaceful affair.

No kingfishers either, but a mink popped through my swim and a ridiculously friendly yellow wagtail seemed to take a liking to my free offerings.

The trudge back to the car left me freezing cold. Definitely the toughest conditions I'd faced over the winter.

A week later it was more Sunday action. I wasn't even sure I'd bother, but my wife pretty much kicked me out! She knows what I'm like if I don't get out and after a long old week beforehand, I needed a release. Decorating doesn't deliver that!

Back for more predators, but with an each way gamble for chub. Umbrella straight into position again to reduce the wind chill.

A slow start, but some interest on the downstream smelt rig saw a jack attached. Blank avoided I thought, but it spat the hook as I was getting the net ready.

A move a couple of pegs upstream didn't yield anything and the wind was getting gusty, colder and annoying. Checking out a longstanding trusty peg further upstream, it was almost tranquil. Time for another move.

Returning to gather my gear I looked downstream and I thought I could see smoke. Hang on. A pitch black sky and I can hear the noise increasing. Hailstorm! Time to take cover.

Just the wrong moment to move, but it didn't matter in all honesty though - the hail just bounced off and I remained dry enough.

The move triggered a take though and a feisty 8lb fish became my first hail pike. Not quite the same as snow pike though - most of it had melted!

And that was it for the day. I retraced my steps and tried for chub again into dark, but with no luck.

On to the weekend just gone and my Sunday afternoon plans were scuppered. My wife requested my presence for a family meal. Refusal is rarely a wise choice, so I kept the peace. A small window of opportunity was available on Saturday afternoon, so I had to grab it.

I'd arranged to meet up with Martin down the Avon, but he was worryingly silent. Sure enough the text came through gone midday as I was getting ready to leave. He was blanking. Another gruelling session on the cards.

Still blanking when I got there, he was cerainly giving it a good go. He had a section well stitched up with baits, but the pike weren't having it.

I tried a couple of banker pegs with smelt, sardine and lamprey. Plenty of twitching, but nothing happening. Hopes of an extension into dusk and dark were thwarted by the missus. I had to call time and meet her at the station. A bit like a referee stopping the boxing match and sparing the contender from further punishment.

Blanker Martin had dropped in just downstream and turned into bagger Martin! Several biteless hours ended with a brace in the last 15 minutes. The first a jack, but the second a low double to salvage some respectability from a difficult day.

Cold weather seems to be all the talk now - the beast from the east if we're to believe the hype. Got to make the best of it I guess. There's not enough season left to be picky. As long as it's settled I'll take it. Still a few things to try to tick off in the next 3 weeks. Two sessions on the cards this weekend hopefully...

Monday, 29 January 2018

Double Start

Another year begins, but the weather has continued to keep me off the rivers throughout most of January. A frustrating period really, particularly as I had some extra time off from work into the first week of the new year. Lots of potentially good fishing time wasted spent working on the house.

I eventually kicked off my 2018 exploits a fortnight ago. The river was fining down nicely, and, with the Blogger's Challenge in mind,  I fancied a crack at a chub. My meagre 3lb 2oz offering needed an uplift.

Was it worth a go though?  A quick text to Mick for an update on his trip the day before, confirmed what I wanted to hear. Plenty of chub had shown up, albeit to no great size. But, bigger fish are there and regularly show up - often on Mick's blog!

For me it was a bit of a stroll down memory lane. Although I've never held the club ticket during my blogging years, this was one of my favourite stretches during the 90s and 00s. It wasn't a triumphant return though. Despite feeling ultra confident, four hours of endeavour taking in three swims, saw nothing in return. My 8th blank in 10 outings was in the bag.

Last week was a simple write off with some pretty horrible wintery conditions pushing through. I spent most of the weekend in a cupboard under the stairs! Not banished there by my good lady I might add, but giving it a post boiler installation makeover. Not the most exciting of times, but it was all in a good cause - more room for my fishing clothing and accessories. Still need to install a shoe rack for my wife though. I'm sure she'll remind me soon enough!

On to this week and it was touch and go with the rivers, Saturday was ruled out anyway, so Sunday was the only option. The weather looked good - breezy, but very mild, cloudy and dry all day.

I went to bed Saturday night with a simple plan - wake up whenever and figure it from there. With my wife also keen to have a chill out day after a long and busy week, it was a relaxing change.

A lie in was inevitable and I didn't venture out until early afternoon. I was only interested in the last couple of hours of daylight, so I took it really easy. The last ENG v AUS ODI cricket match proving to be the perfect reason not to rush out.

I didn't wet a line until 1-30pm.  A two rod approach to begin with. Standard tactics for me on both rigs - a big smelly lump of meat, hair rigged on a free running set up.

Nothing showed in the first two hours. As the sun slipped lower, I retired the upstream rod to make sure any hint of a bite on the preferred downstream rod, would be nailed instantly.

Whether by luck or judgement, it took less than 5 minutes for a proper tug on the tip. I pounced quickly and a quiet start to the battle had me thinking chub. It soon turned into a barbel though and a hard but incident free battle was played out.

A typical, solid, clean looking fish that caused the Avons to do a full circuit. They settled on 10lb 12oz. Nice to start the year on a double. I hope it ends like likewise!

I nearly called it a day, but as I still had a good hour plus of daylight left, I plodded on in the hope of more.

Within half an hour the tip rattled again and I was poised for action, hand at the ready. The tip banged again and I was on it like a flash. I think I surprised myself actually!

Definitely a chub this time, but although it didn't look the longest, it was a solid old fish. Clearly a season's best, but by how much?

4lb 4oz took me by surprise - so much so, that I zeroed the sling and reweighed it on my backup scales. Same outcome. With my meagre pb only being an ounce heavier, this one gave it a close run.

The week ahead looks unsettled and that's not really what I wanted. Time is running out for the rivers and I still haven't got a respectable pike to my name this season, nor even a zander of any size. Still hoping though...

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Early Finish

My fishing year ended in a very tame and unsatisfactory manner. No more need to berate the overly dry conditions. The weather had the final laugh to a very forgettable Autumn campaign. Two planned river sessions cancelled for obvious reasons:

To add to my woes, my long suffering boiler (not a reference to my wife!) finally gave up the ghost in the week before Christmas. No longer cost effective to put back into service, a new one is now being scheduled in. Fortunately we've been able to get hot water via an immersion heater, or it would have really tested our resolve. 

Just one quick session to mention since my last post. It was my traditional Christmas Eve session - just not on Christmas Eve this year! My wife had booked me up for that already with family duties. 

So, a day earlier than normal, I headed off to a decent looking Avon for a dawn start. No excuses, but it proved a difficult nut for me to crack again.

Martin turned up soon after and wasted little time in getting his spool turning. Not the planned ending though as his hooks went skywards and he was left playing a tree! He soon had a jack on the bank though to make amends.

My blank was avoided with my only bite of the session. A jack with an unsightly wound, so I'll spare it from a public appearance on here.

I called it a day at 11am, by which time Martin had upped his count to three, the best one being around double figures. He went on to add a couple more.

I have an extended break this year and I'm hoping it won't see me consigned to decorating throughout. If the river drops to the right level, I'll continue to look for pike and zander. If not, temperatures permitting, I'll definitely open the year with a session on a stillwater that I was saving for Spring.

2018 promises to be an interesting one for me in many ways. Lots of distractions that will potentially interfere with my time on the bank, but I'll certainly be out at every opportunity. My only fishing resolution is to do more of what I didn't do this year! 

I had some good intentions that I didn't follow through on. Quite why I've ignored tench again is just plain daft, given the options I have in my ticket wallet.

Have a good New Year and tight lines in 2018.

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Dominoes and Monkeys

Where to begin?

It's over a month since I last checked in and let's just say that things haven't quite gone to plan. How bad you ask? Let's try a picture clue to sum up my bankside activity...

Hopefully not too cryptic! That's right - 6 (six) consecutive blanks.

Having only ever suffered a maximum of three blanks on the spin before, I really didn't see this lot coming. Granted, conditions haven't been great, the sessions mostly short and I've perhaps been too blinkered in my approach. Still, I expected a little more than zilch.

All were predator sessions in gin clear water. Three were actually completely barren - zero bites. The rest had some bites, but frequently all too tentative. A nudge here, an enquiry there, the odd strike into thin air. Occasionally connecting, but then disconnecting, as hooks are spat back in anger.

The sixth domino was played out on Monday past. A bonus session borne out of the recent snowfall. I'm lucky enough to work in education, where establishments close when the white stuff falls to any reasonable degree.

This was fate I thought. Finally a chance to get a long-standing monkey off my back - a snow pike. Opportunities for snow fishing don't present themselves all that often around these parts, so I needed to choose well. A tried and trusted venue would surely deliver?

You know the outcome of course. Not a sniff. 4+ hours of zero action. Nothing moving anywhere. Dejected, I quit early afternoon and headed home to do a refresh job on the bathroom. Exciting times! Extra dominoes were being contemplated.

Tuesday dawned and confusion reigned. Employer optimism of opening was quashed, but I was summoned to another campus that had beaten the weather. A useless exercise though, as I had no access to the essential tools of my job. A day of pointless time filling and coffee drinking didn't thrill me. I needed out.

After a brief and sensible chat, a mutual agreement was struck up with my boss. Rather than me lingering around and moaning all day,  I'd bugger off quietly and use up some time owed to me. Much better for all concerned. Snow pike take two was now in operation.

Back to the river, but a different stretch. A more public venue and one I've never predator fished before. I just needed a change to rekindle some fresh optimism. It's a venue I've fished occasionally over the years, albeit not for quite a while.

A chilly day at -2C on arrival (although better than the -6C earlier that morning). It didn't rise much either - just tripping around freezing point when I packed in.

I knew a likely area with a mix of depths and features. I'd spend a few hours hopping swims, covering as much variety as possible.

Swim one nearly yielded success just as I was planning a move. A bob of the float on the smelt rig, then a few more indications, before a clear pull away. A strike, slight resistance and then a hook pull followed. Bugger!

I sat it out a while longer than I'd intended, but nothing else showed. Time to find some deeper water that I knew was a few pegs downstream.

Sardine deployed to the left, I then guessed a little conservatively with the smelt rig. The float was around 10 inches out and fully submerged. I reeled in to adjust it and the float fought back!

I must have dropped the smelt bang on the money. I set the hooks and played out the fight. Brisk and thankfully uneventful, I had broken the run of blanks. A snow pike at last and although a long way short of my target, a season's best at 9lb 12oz. Quite a long, lean and clean fish.

Not the perfect trophy shot I'd have wanted, but the snow was very iced up and pretty solid. I wasn't going to risk damaging the fish through self indulgence.

Nothing else for the reminder of session. Just feathered company that's clearly well practised in the art of scrounging from anglers.

Prospects for the weekend are interesting, with some milder air threatening to push in. The cold snow melt (with added grit) currently in the rivers might be the defining factor. Coloured water will be a rare luxury though.

I'd resigned myself to a weekend off, but with the rivers now dropping, I'm tempted to make a last minute change of mind. The gear is ready just in case, as are the dominoes...

Edit - Sunday morning. 6am, phone says it's 1C. River still a little higher than I'd like for the temperature. Significant rain due late morning. England still floundering in the cricket. Not much to get up for.

A lie in and then finishing off the Christmas preparations was the more sensible option. Plenty of time for fishing over an extended festive break for me this year (around family commitments of course!).

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Alternative Fireworks

Finally, as I write this, it's the first evening since mid October that I haven't heard a firework go off. It drives me mad after a while, but I guess that's part of urban life and it's greater concentration of morons. Glad it's all over now.

No danger of me dabbling in any pyrotechnics, so I'd have to make do with whatever entertainment I could conjure up from the Avon this week. My only viable window on Saturday was booted into touch by a BBC weather forecaster. After a crappy week at work and feeling slightly under the weather, I wasn't getting up at dawn for a soaking. Sunday afternoon it was then...

This is where I enjoy the shorter days. The last couple of hours of fishing as the light fades, are so much easier to slot into place for me. I can gently recover from any Saturday alcohol excess without any urgency. Then slope off to get the best of the conditions and be back in plenty of time for an evening meal.

With a little extra water having gone through, I toyed with the idea of a mixed approach with deadbaits and meat. Then I sensibly remembered that I have a habit of screwing up when I do that. I rarely do either method justice. It's often better to focus fully on one approach - a case of knowing my limitations.

Deadbaits were left in the freezer and I reached for my stockpile of meat. I have a habit of buying it in bulk whevener the supermarket drops it to £1 a tin. Chopped into 3/4 inch cubes it's dirt cheap really.  I only used half a tin during the session. The rest ended up going in the freezer.

An old school one trick pony approach, but I have more faith in it than anything else. It's probably because I've never fully got to grips with pellets and boilies - too many choices and flavours for my mind. The only decision here was one rod or two.

I kicked off with two for the first half of the session and very little happened. A couple of sharp bangs on the downstream rod, but nothing I could connect with. With the sun beating down and the water still quite clear, I wasn't expecting much early afternoon.

A kingfisher kept me amused though, popping in directly opposite to nick some small fry. Great fun watching it dipping down off the willows.

poor photo but it was gone in a flash

As the sun started to dip behind the trees, I retired the upstream rod. I just wanted to give full focus to what I considered to be the best part of the swim. Any half chance and I wanted to be in contact right away, so the freespool was now left off. Clutch also slackened off slightly more than usual.

Firework update - spoke too soon. Bastards going off in the distance right now! I digress...

Radio on and City 2-0 up in the cup - for once not making a meal of non-league opposition. Fishing still quiet, so a quick look at the internet to check other sport news and then wham - fireworks begin! The rod hoops over and I simply have to grab the butt and toss the phone to one side.

The clutch kicked in and covered the initial run, but the backwind was soon in place to help out. As I stopped the fish a good way downstream, it went eerily solid for a few seconds. I thought I'd allowed it too much room to manoeuvre, but it then kicked out again. Phew!

It then all went to plan and I even remembered to keep it clear of an unseen near bank snag that cost me a good fish last season. Into the net it went after a fair old scrap and I felt it was my first double of the season. I gave it a good rest and popped it on the mat.  It looked even better now, with a solid front end. Clearly feeding well. The scales went 11lb 1oz.

Very pleased with that result after a mostly poor September / October. A few more challenge points and in terms of barbel, it's around the mark I'd hoped for.

Zander and chub are probably my next targets, along with pike. I might even go in search of roach if the conditions drop right. Optimism is returning, soon to be suppressed no doubt!

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Predator Kick Off

I finally caved in and went for my first proper predator session of the season. I have dabbled in recent times on occasions, but this was my first dual rod effort with my main gear.

With the wind still blowing through a little, I headed for a reasonably sheltered part of the Avon. The clocks went back overnight and I opted to ignore the extra hour in bed. I was bankside at 6-30am.

Tactics were float fished deadbaits, alternating between smelt, sardine and roach, across a handful of swims. I had the place to myself, so I could hop pegs at will - just how I like it.

When it comes to pike, smelt is definitely my first choice deadbait bar none. The distinctive cucumber smell conjures up an air of a confidence that other baits can't quite match. It's a definite get out of jail card on rock hard days.

Lamprey, with its blood oozing quality, is a close second. It's quite expensive though and often shorter in supply these days. More of a luxury bait for me now, but I'll break into my meagre supplies when I'm on some of my longer sessions later in the year.

Roach is next in the pecking order and my main attack for zander. I've just stocked up on these and will be looking to perfect my approach in the coming months. I'm still quite new to this zander lark and have plenty to learn.

Sardine is another alternative I use regularly. A soft oily bait, it offers up a good sized mouthful at a very low cost (when bought from the fishmonger). Again, I've just stocked up on a few of these.

Sprats are very bleak like and always worth a go. Very cost effective too and these small baits can often throw up a surprise.

Back to the session and with clear water I expected a tough session. The river didn't disappoint! A blank in swim one and just a single small jack from the next three to a smelt offering. Tough going.

A return to the banker swim and a twitch induced take saw me battling something beyond jack size. A powerful initial run saw me having to apply the brakes to keep it from a big snag.

Almost daring to tail walk, it luckily turned and then kited back towards me. Then it all went a bit stupid as it ploughed straight beneath the staging in front of me. Seemingly disorientated, it turned around and was cornered by my now waiting net. What looked set to be a sporting battle, became all a bit anticlimactic. Not that I cared though!

It was a lovely clean unmarked fish and I thought maybe a scraper double. It was close, but the Avons confirmed it was a couple of light snacks short at 9lb 11oz. Funny how the lack of any size reference (other than the mat itself) makes the fish look small.

A few token challenge points to add to my tally. I'd like something double the size, but patience is required. It's just a case of wading through the singles and waiting my turn. Time is on my side for now.

Rain is still desperately needed, but I can't see anything significant in the forecast. Not sure where I'll head next. This clear water is proving challenging.