Monday, 5 December 2016

Surrender

Another afternoon session and with it being chilly, I switched to a full predator attack. Sadly, it wasn't much of an assault - more like a gradual and unconditional surrender.

The usual car park encounter with the cheeky resident robin kicked things off. This bird knows the score and is a proper little beggar! Incredibly friendly too, but that goes for most of these red breasted creatures. A light snack was dished out and I was on my way.


With just two cars in the car park I fancied I might get one of my preferred pegs. Unfortunately the occupants were either side of where I wanted to be, once I'd reached the river. Now I know I could have sandwiched between them, but it's not my thing. I prefer a bit of space and peace, so I headed upstream to try a new peg.


A nice enough peg, but a little lacking in depth for my liking. An hour or so of blanking followed. A move upstream to deeper water yielded the same outcome.


A final move back downstream saw no change in peg occupancy. In fact there was now more competition.

A long trudge further downstream seemed like a good idea, but when I got to a vaguely suitable peg, I found myself not really giving a damn. Some youths had appeared in the vicinity and seemed up to no good. I couldn't settle and by now any semblance of enthusiasm had been knocked out of me. The white flag was waved.

Even though I had a good hour+ of daylight left, I took one last wander across the meadow to the car. I bid the robin farewell and headed home for a date with a food cupboard. This is the annual pre-Christmas space clearing ritual where all manner of out of date crap I never knew my wife had bought, is consigned to the bin. It seemed marginally more exciting than more blanking!

Some days it's just not meant to happen, but it's still nice to be out though and the exercise will do me good I guess. A mixed bag of weather this week and if things drop right for next weekend, I'm hoping to squeeze a little more time on the bank. I just hope to get my net wet next week...

Sunday, 27 November 2016

The Long Final Furlong

Finally the much needed rain showed up as the working week kicked off. The Avon had returned to a normal Winter level by the time I got to chance my arm on the Sunday. It was in great nick though and still holding a bit of colour. No excuses or moans this week!

Another lazy start for me, allowing sufficient time to recover from the previous night's excess. I covered all bases, but I had two targets in my sights - chub or perch. I'd decide once I'd chosen a location.

Fancying a change of scenery, I headed to the furthest downstream stretch. With no cars present, I didn't need a second invitation. I had a peg in mind that always screams chub to me - even if it hasn't always delivered.

I dug in for the afternoon and with plenty of swim to go at, I set about legering meat on a single rod for the entire session. A little one dimensional I guess, but I just feel more confident with it. Old habits die hard!


First chuck threw up a mint condition chub of around a pound. Small, but welcome and any risk of blanking was quickly banished.


It wasn't as easy as I hoped it was going to be though. A couple of missed bites added to the frustration and I was beginning to think that I wouldn't be adding to the early fish.

Persistence (or perhaps stubbornness) paid off when a proper old wrap around bite saw me attached to my target quarry.

Now, I don't have much of a track record with chub. For some reason they tend to pass me by. I've never had a five pounder and fours have been pretty scarce too. The fish I was busy extracting was certainly banging on the door of being a pb.

The fight was pretty tame and uneventful. It popped straight into the net and was quickly weighed. A long fish that was just shy of my pb. The scales locked on 4lb 3oz. A step in the right direction for my challenge scorecard, but I'm still aiming for that elusive five pounder.


Talking of the challenge, I've now pushed through the 600 point barrier. The race to the finish is now on, but the last bit will be the hardest. Perch aside, points will now be trickier to come by for all species. The scores are:

Barbel (11lb 1oz - Warks Avon) - 110.63% of target - pb
Bream (8lb 2oz - Anker) - 101.36% - pb
Pike (19lb 3oz - Warks Avon) - 95.94%
Zander (5lb 7oz  - Warks Avon) - 90.63% -pb
Chub (4lb 3oz - Warks Avon) - 83.75%
Carp (8lb 0oz - Warks Avon) - 80% - river pb
Perch (1lb 6oz - Anker) - 45.83%
Total - 608.34 (Target 700)

A cool and dry week ahead won't do much for next weekend's prospects. Perch might get some attention next time out.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Breaking The Jack Curse

Just a short 3 hour session this week, slotted in between some taxi duties. Once again, a near empty car park at the first stretch I passed, was enough to tempt me in.

A quick scurry across the meadows and I dropped in on the lucky zander peg from the previous week. Then I spotted a deadbait float just upstream, indicating someone was in the next peg fishing a downstream rod. Even though they were out of sight, I just prefer to have more breathing space. I moved a further peg downstream.

I went for a two rod approach. One for my standard pike deadbaits (smelt, lamprey, sardine) fished on trebles. The other was a single hook rig with roach for zander. Both were fished hard on the deck on a running leger rig.

I didn't have to wait long for the first bite on the pike rod. The smelt was confidently taken and I was playing another of those jacks. As it charged around the swim I spotted it wasn't a jack after all. A zander, with a taste for a sea deadbait.

I popped it in the net and acquired an inquisitive visitor from two pegs upstream. He was on a blank (his 4th consecutive one!) and came to talk tactics. I put him to good use with the scales and the verdict was a new pb of 5lb 7oz. Just a quick unflattering photo as the fish made it clear it wasn't happy being handled.


After the early success, I moved into a period of struggle. Turning to my trusty soup flask, I set about devouring the contents and dug myself in for the afternoon. Normally i like to move a bit, but i just fancied there might be more zander around.

Regularly moving the baits around the swim and twitching them periodically, I eventually got a take on the pike rod. I'd just repositioned it in the margin and it was swiftly nailed soon after the float settled.

I struck and felt a series of violent head shakes before it powered off on its first run. This wasn't a zander. I could see it was a long fish and clearly a double. My run of single jacks was about to end I hoped.

As I coaxed the fish towards the net, my mood became a little more serious when I saw the size of its now flared jaw. A miserable netting attempt left me cursing as the fish powered off again. I knew I was now tackling a big double and I was praying the hooks would hold.

A second offering of the net did the trick, but only just. It self unhooked in the net, albeit with a set of trebles missing. As I lifted it, my estimations moved up towards the twenty mark. It was a hefty brute. After a quick bit of dentistry, the missing trebles were recovered and it was time for a weigh in.


The digital scales just wouldn't settle properly, so I pulled out my back up Avons to get a better reading. I settled for 19lb 3oz. A magnificent fish that I genuinely wasn't expecting at this stage of the season. It will no doubt be a twenty later in the season. The upstream angler had moved on, so I attempted a quick and not altogether successful self take.


I then moved up a peg, but it didn't achieve anything though. The last hour was completely barren.


The latest scores for my season's river challenge are :

Barbel (11lb 1oz - Warks Avon) - 110.63% of target - pb
Bream (8lb 2oz - Anker) - 101.36% - pb
Carp (8lb 0oz - Warks Avon) - 80% - river pb
Perch (1lb 6oz - Anker) - 45.83%
Chub (3lb 4oz - Warks Avon) - 65%
Zander (5lb 7oz  - Warks Avon) - 90.63% -pb
Pike (19lb 3oz - Warks Avon) - 95.94%
Total - 589.59 (Target 700)

The good news is that we received some much needed rain overnight and I believe more is due in the early part of the week. Prospects might be very interesting next week.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

A Late Change

I had no idea what to do ahead of my latest outing. Extra water earlier in the week had mostly dropped out, but fresh water was now heading in. Would it be enough to colour it up?

I hedged my bets, which basically meant doing bugger all preparation and heading out to the pub. I'd reassess it in the morning.

A tinge of despair set in when I got up and checked the internet. The level had barely moved overnight and another clear river beckoned. Feeling a little groggy I took my time and decided to go for predators again, with a midday start.

The plan was to head off to my main pike area to see if I could end the curse of the jacks. A rethink was in order when I passed my other water and saw just one familiar car in the car park. I was expecting more anglers. Suddenly it was all change and now I was thinking more about zander.

Mick appeared while I was swigging back my pre-walk coffee and after a quick catch up, I headed off to try a different area with deep water. Although I liked the peg, the sun's position was making life uncomfortable.


Rowing boats were also in close proximity. A megaphone wielding coach offering advice from his motor powered vessel. The cox following suit through the loudspeaker within the main craft. I wasn't in the mood to work around it, so I headed back downstream.

After another biteless hour on my next peg (usually a banker), half of the four hour session had gone. A blank was now on the cards. I still had one other banker to try, but a recently cleared peg grabbed my attention instead. With plenty of nearside cover, it just looked spot on.


It proved to be the right choice when the right hand float pulled under and held. A spirited fight kicked off and I could see it was a zander. After madness had subsided, it slipped into the net and I had my second ever zed by design. It was neatly hooked in the scissors with a single hook (as recommended by Mick!) to a decapitated roach deadbait.


A new pb, but only 4lb 6oz. Still, it edges me closer to my 6lb target for the season. I'm secretly getting a little greedy though. Knowing that double figure fish have been caught here in the past, I know that's the target I really want to hit. Patience and a lot more bank hours required - neither of which are in abundance for me.

A final move for the last hour threw up nothing but frustration. No fewer than six takes on the right hand rod and none converted! All in the same area and I suspect from the same fish. A canny, cagey or perhaps cunning one. Or, as Mick suggested, one with eyes bigger than belly!

Not a prolific session, but my late decision to switch venues at least paid off with a pb. With cooler conditions due and no sign of any weather that might add colour to the rivers, it's likely to be more of the same for me next week.

The latest scores for my 7 species river challenge are :

Barbel (11lb 1oz) - 110.63% - pb
Bream (8lb 2oz) - 101.36% - pb
Carp (8lb 0oz) - 80% - river pb
Perch (1lb 6oz) - 45.83%
Chub (3lb 4oz) - 65%
Zander (4lb 6oz) - 72.92% -pb
Pike (5lb 10oz) - 28.13%
Total - 504.07 (Target 700)

Friday, 11 November 2016

A New Direction

Another half a dozen weeks has slipped by since I last checked in. Finally we seem to have given the slip to that absurdly warm and dry period. Autumn has arrived at last. So where have I been?

October kicked off with a pleasantly unpleasant session on the Avon. A pre-arranged affair between three of us, where we'd fish into dark. The company - great. The fishing and weather - pretty awful for a couple of us.

Rain blighted the session and made things uncomfortable. Mick did well to make a blog post out of it - much more patience and creativity than I could have given it! My outcome was a lone jack taken on my first cast. No sign of the hoped for zander. They are elusive, borderline mythical, on this stretch for sure!

A week later I switched to the Anker and although a lot drier, it didn't fish well. Like the Avon, it was running low and clear, as it has for most of the past four months. Another grinding effort that resulted in a pound plus perch and a jack.


A welcome two weekend lay off for a spot of cruising saved me from taking further punishment at the hands of our natural venues. I consciously divorced myself from the internet world while on holiday.  It was so refreshing to just shut the phone / tablet data down and to immerse myself in other things.


Feeling refreshed, I hoped I might return to hear that the heavens had opened. No such luck. More pain to come...

Back to the Avon to see if the zander would play ball, or maybe a barbel. Coarse deadbaits for the zeds, while an altogether scaled back maggot feeder approach would be tried for the babs.

In all honesty it wasn't really a barbel plan. More a case of a catch anything plan, but with the hope of fluking / fooling one on lighter gear.

I began in the zander banker area where I'd had one a few weeks earlier. Nothing doing on deadbait or maggot. A move to a more barbel friendly peg didn't yield anything either.

Readying myself for another move, I figured the roach deadbait would have to be replaced with something else. Reeling in, I gave a sharp tug to eject the bait and left it to flutter down through the water. Securing the hook for imminent transportation, I casually glanced down to see how my discarded bait was dropping - purely to see just how clear the water was.

In no time at all, my whole roach had managed to attach itself to a pike! All I could do was to watch it manoevre the free offering down its throat, by some vigorous head shaking. Look at what you could have won!

The interesting thing for me is that I wasn't guilty of just leaving the deadbait static. I'm a born twitcher! I swear by regularly twitching deadbaits to help induce a take. Yet it didn't work here. This fish wanted something higher in the water it seemed. Maybe I need to get back to the wobbling method I used a lot more in years gone by?



My next swim (a new one to me) threw up some bits to maggot, including some chunky gudgeon. A pike attacked the deadbait float on a retrieve.


Bad for the float, but good for confidence. I'd say it's a fair bet that the same fish ended up on the bank after intercepting a bait on the drop soon after.


On to the next week and what a change in weather. Some proper overnight frosts and cooler daytime temperatures had me breaking out the proper pike gear and donning full winter attire.

A chilly wind would dominate the session though and I covered a lot of ground across three stretches. On reaching the third of them I was biteless, but at least in a banker swim I felt. An angler downstream came straight over to me, delightfully informing me he'd had nothing at all. He'd also plundered my swim earlier! The one positive was that he told me about his best zander from the stretch, which had slipped into double figures.

Confidence drained, but also buoyed too. I pressed on and as with my previous three sessions I ended up with a single jack. Another disappointing and paltry return and when rain began to settle in, I took the hint and made good my escape. A sound move, as it was a miserly 4C when I reached the car and I'd really had enough. Cold doesn't bother me, but add in wind / rain and you can keep it!

In the title of this post I referred to a new direction. Last Christmas I acquired one of those little video cameras. A cheap but effective bit of kit that can be used for many purposes. A dash cam for the car, or maybe attached to a cycling helmet, or even for security purposes? Being waterproof, for me it was always destined to end up in the river!

I've taken it to a couple of sessions now and I'm busy wrestling with it's constraints and limitations. The first outing saw it sat 6ft down in the margins in the hope of capturing passing fish. I managed four takes covering 45 minutes of "action". All I got was a clump of leaves!

In fairness they were beautifully clear, so at least I know the focus while immersed is acceptable. I don't think Spielberg will be calling on my skills just yet though. I'll keep pursuing this little diversion though when conditions permit.

Finally, we've also had some much needed rain this week. The Avon has risen a few inches and hopefully taken on a bit of colour too. Just maybe, this weekend will see the river bang on for once...

Monday, 26 September 2016

Supersub Scores

Let's kick off with the previous week's barren session. With time limited I was up early to be on the bank for first light. The plan was to catch chub or barbel, with perch as a back up should I need it. 

None were caught. Just a roach and a dace to worm, the latter of which was mangled by a pike, but lived to tell the tale. With pike also showing their presence on the next peg I got the impression that anything bite sized was justifiably nervous in the gin clear water. Good signs for the upcoming predator season I guess. A kiss of death for this session though. 

Fast forward a week and I had given up hope of getting out. With a ton of work to do at home I convinced myself that I'd be confined to base. I did manage to hijack a trip to the shops to grab a few deadbaits - just in case things fell into place.

I think my wife knew that I'd just sealed the deal. Not that she minds, or at least I don't think she does! She knows that all work and no fishing is generally a recipe for a grumpy hubby. Much better for all if I'm allowed my little weekly fix.

So, sometime gone 3pm I made the call and hastily put some gear together. A mile down the road and it was a case of about turn. No scales! Can't tempt fate by risking a session without them, particularly as I was on a zander hunt and literally anything would be a pb.

I headed for an area of the Avon that has thrown up a few zeds recently. With no preparation time I had to go with my light fun sized set up, which was geared up with my standard pike end tackle. No time to break out the new hooks I'd recently bought for zander on a recommendation. I'd actually forgotten to pack them in the rush to get out!


Out with a roach deadbait, following the often suggested theory that they prefer coarse baits. Call me sceptical but in the six years I've been predator fishing the Avon, I'd never seen a zander. Dozens of pike and even a chub and perch, but never a zander.

So it was no surprise when the first fish to show up was a jack. Nice to get my net wet, but not what I was after.


A move was made upstream but the shallower peg didn't fill me with confidence with the clear water. It wasn't long before I got twitchy and I was soon settling down into my third and last chance swim.

Searching around the swim (I don't like leaving baits static for too long) I eventually got a strange tap on the float that pricked my attention. It couldn't be could it? Then nothing. I began to write it off as debris hitting the line but after about a minute the float began to pull steadily away.

Expecting another jack, my whole outlook changed when a silvery body emerged from the depths. Praying the hooks would hold I quickly ushered it into the ample net. Get in!

OK, let's be clear - it's only a bog standard schoolie, but for me it's new territory. Just 2lb 15oz, but it counts for my challenge scorecard following my late substitution and is a pb. Just got to find one double the size before March now!


I lost a small jack at the death, but a few minutes earlier I had a spookily similar bite to the zander one. A tap, nothing, then a proper take. This was a more serious fish though, staying low and feeling heavy. Cue hook pull! Maybe I do need to break out those special hooks next time?

It's a pleasant diversion from pike and I know I'm going to be hooked now. There's every chance a low double figure fish could be in residence on the stretch, so I might be giving the zeds a bit more attention now. I hope it's not another six year wait....

The latest scores for my 7 species river challenge are :

Barbel (11lb 1oz) - 110.63%
Bream (8lb 2oz) - 101.36%
Carp (8lb 0oz) - 80%
Perch (1lb 6oz) - 45.83%
Chub (3lb 4oz) - 65%
Zander (2lb 15oz) - 48.96%
Pike - 0%
Total - 451.98 (Target 700)

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Pleasure and Pain

Three of us headed back to the Wye for one of our away weekends. Always highly anticipated affairs, tackled with abundant enthusiasm. Past failures, of which there are many, are always banished into distant memory.

The Wye is a cracking river. No doubt about that. Prolific and tough in equal measures though. Bag yourself a certain known peg on the stretch we fish and you're pretty much guaranteed barbel action. It's actually too easy and is generally reserved by the host for those seeking their first barbel thrill.

Everywhere else on the stretch is generally tough going, particularly if you don't get conditions in your favour. And once again they weren't! Low and gin clear. 

I made a right hash of day one. For the entire morning I'd built up a bed of bait mid-river, but nothing was happening. It was only when the sun poked out briefly and I stood up high on the bank, that I could see my error. The river was incredibly shallow right out to half way. I felt I needed to be half as far out again.

The switch proved to be an instant hit. Not for me though, but for Brian on the next peg who'd also decided to go for a longer chuck. A barbel of 5lb+ was later joined by one of 7lb 6oz. The latter almost resulting in the garrotting of some female canoeists who turned up at an inopportune moment. Fortunately they were polite and took the advice to change course, while the barbel was retrieved.

Destined to see my net a day later!
At the back end of the day I eventually bagged one myself. A fish of 7lb 11oz. Charlie, furthest upstream, managed a couple of juveniles.


The weather had been wet for much of the day and a final soaking just around packing up time, pretty much summed it up. In fairness we were happy that for once we'd all had barbel on day one. We retired to the pub.

Day two kicked off with a 5-30am rude awakening. Not an alarm call, but Charlie over-reaching and falling out of his bed head first into the side of my bed! Travelodge rooms are cosy if nothing else!

The weather was better and after much pondering and dithering (I accept much of the blame for that!), we plumped for the same area, with me and Charlie switching swims. An early Barbel for me proved to be false hope and no more were seen all day. It was actually one of the fish seen a day earlier - the 7lb 6oz fish caught by Brian (it had a distinctive well healed scar).

Blanks were reported along most of the length and even the banker peg had only thrown up one fish. Tough going.

I'll return of course. It's too nice a place to simply walk away from. A rest and a change is probably required though, as we've suffered many a beating down there now. I'm investigating options on the Trent for a future weekender. An autumn day trip to suss it out is on the cards.

Back locally, I planned a short evening Anker trip in a last desperate bid to break my river tench duck for the season. While de-barbelising my gear to an altogether lighter approach, I stumbled on an unlabelled rod tube. I thought it was a 3 piece float rod that I rarely use, but instead it was a brand new general purpose rod I'd forgotten all about.

It's nothing special, but I bought it a while back purely because it has a screw thread at the top for taking a swing tip. It's a method I'd never tried before and although a little old hat and unfashionable, I just fancied trying it. 

Looks broken?
Firstly, I can see why quiver tips are more popular, but in all honesty I found the swing tip to be OK. The sensitivity is where it scores highest. I broke my swinging duck with a big drop back bite. Not a tench, but one of the many old warrior slabs that inhabit the stretch. This one had just one eye and was about average stamp at 6lb 4oz.


I chopped and changed methods but couldn't entice anything else of note. Just a few roach and perch. A very frustrating session actually, as I'd baited up fairly heavily and had the fish fizzing over the feed.


With Autumn now upon us, things should hopefully start to pick up on the river. After last year's heavily curtailed season, I won't make the mistake of leaving it too long to break out the predator gear.