Wednesday, 22 June 2016

The Luck Factor

I'm a big believer in luck when it comes to fishing. Skills learned through time on the bank, along with carefully executed plans and listening to those in the know, will clearly go a long way. But sometimes a slice of luck and even pure fate, can provide that little edge. Or it is just down to the more you fish, the luckier you get?!

For two weekday sessions I headed off to the Anker. In my limited experience of this waterway, I've found it to be a moody and frustrating customer. It holds some really good fish, but extracting them is rarely a cakewalk. All luck is welcome.

The river was fining down after a big rise in level the previous week. It was also chucking down, which is largely why I chose this river in the first place. I can park almost on my peg, which was a lot more appealing than a long trudge in the rain on the Avon.

The day was a complete frustration and fish were scarce. I'd banged the bait in early to see if I could draw in the target species - bream, tench or carp. Well into the day all I had to show for my efforts were a couple of perch - the best 1lb 6oz. I did lose a bigger perch though.

I was fishing two different rigs. One for a heavier attack with bookies or pellets, while the other was a float rig more geared for bream.

This is where my luck ran out. Twice I managed to hook decent carp on the float rig, but it turned out they were actually foul hooked. Frustratingly they didn't take the intended bait in the standard manner. I was left with a souvenir each time, although I never saw either fish.

Defeated, I called it a day and returned a day later for a short session to settle the score. With carp showing their hand the previous day and knowing that I'd put bait in, it was an obvious choice to pick the same swim.

A cunning plan, albeit scuppered instantly by the only other angler on the stretch having got there first! Pollacks I thought, or something close to that!

So, I headed a few pegs upstream and chanced my arm in a recently renovated peg. I'd have preferred the far end peg, but it was already swallowed up by the now rising water.  The peg I settled for had a clear area about 3-4 yards wide, with thick lily beds either side.

With just over 3 hours fishing time available to me, plan A was to bang in about 10 jaffa sized balls of groundbait. Half tight to the left lily bed and half to the right. Then sit and wait patiently for fish to find it. There was no plan B.

Nothing for well over an hour, but out of nowhere intense bubbles began to appear. Fancying something sizeable was now in residence, I retracted the maggot rig and replaced it with a prawn. Straight on the drop I had a take and the rod arched over. Clearly not a carp or tench, due to the pedestrian battle, but a decent slab instead.

When I photograph fish I always try to keep them in the same direction (head to the left). It's nothing superstitious. I just like to be able to recognise any recaptures of previous fish. I occasionally deviate from this if a fish has an ugly side to it. This was one of those scenarios and was done previously to the same fish last year.

A battered, old, half blind, not overly photogenic bream, but I'm not complaining. It was a pb last time I laid hands on it and at 2oz heavier this time, it raises the mark to 7lb 11oz for me. Not quite the 8lb river target I set myself, but pretty close and there's lots of time left. A shade lucky though, as if I'd been the only angler on the section, or if there had been less water on, I wouldn't have fished the peg.

In terms of river targets, I set them out in my last post. The intention is to track them throughout the season as a percentage of target challenge. If I exactly hit a target that's a 100% score. If I exceed a target, I can also bag the extra points (but capped at 125% maximum). With 7 species in the fray, the target score is 700. The current position is:

Barbel (11lb 1oz) - 110.63%
Bream (7lb 11oz) - 96.09%
Perch (1lb 6oz) - 45.83%
Chub (2lb 2oz) - 42.50%
Tench, Carp and Pike - 0%
Total - 295.05

A long way to go and some pb fish required if I'm to hit the 700 by March. To put it into context, I'd have scored just under 500 points based on last season's efforts.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Two Very Different Rivers

The river season opened a little earlier for me this year. No, I haven't moved into the land of fluff chucking, although it did cross my mind after my brief encounter with the Windrush in March.

Bruce Springsteen's River Tour hit my local arena a couple of weeks ago. Another top class effort from The Boss and I consider myself lucky to have been able to amble down along my local cut and roll in to such an amazing show. I pretty much had to be rolled out of the adjacent casino post show though. It was a long day!

I haven't fished much in the closed season - just half a dozen times. The estate lake was dire in the cooler early part of spring and I backed off. I briefly turned to the canal for a couple of sessions and actually enjoyed it. I managed to find an area that suits my need for peace and found plenty of fish. I didn't catch anything special, but I fancy a few more sessions next closed season.

In recent weeks, bank work for one of my clubs has been the focus. It's something I enjoy doing and with a bit of investment from the club, coupled with some helping hands, it's gone reasonably well this year. I'm looking forward to hearing results from the newly installed pegs.

The 16th actually seemed to roll around quite quickly in the end. With it being the back end of the week I decided to work the week out and start from the Friday evening. A plan that soon backfired when the heavens opened several times over the week.

The plan was to hit the Anker for bream or tench straight after work, fishing into dark. With the river level heading into the amber warning zone and rising, I put my feet up instead! Thoughts now turned to Saturday.

I couldn't start early, as I had to drop my wife off at the station. She had a date with some Hairy Bikers at the NEC's Good Food show. My remit was to go fishing and wait for the request to be picked up. I was hoping the food was good!

The Avon was looking pretty decent considering the recent weather. 1.37m and falling, with plenty of colour. Fishing a fairly new stretch to me, I settled for a peg that caught my eye on a pre season recce. Mind you, most pegs looked bloody good in all honesty! I look forward to trying more of those when conditions improve.

I bounced a lead around to check for snags and variations in depth. Nothing to note really so I balled in some bait along the crease line down to an overhanging tree and chilled out for 45 minutes to get set up properly.

The plan was a smelly bait on the downstream rod for chub or barbel. Upstream I would fish a maggot feeder just to test the water really. I had an indication quite quickly on meat, but missed the bite. Although, I think the culprit turned up later...

While rebaiting the meat, my maggot rod banged around and I felt solid resistance. It wasn't a mental fight and I started to think a pb chub was on the cards, but it was a fairly placid barbel. At 7lb 4oz it got my season off to an unexpected start, but I really wish they'd read the script and fall to the rod with the heavier gear!

The meat eventually produced a fish after a series of missed bites, but only an eel that had clearly been gorging on the stuff at my expense.

A switch to double boilie threw up a 2lb chub and next cast saw me into something quite substantial. This fish went tearing off on a series of runs, but fortunately never went anywhere near a snag. After a patient battle I slipped the net under it and rested it for a while.

I dropped a text to a fellow angler further upstream and said I thought I had a near double in the net. With my pb at 9lb 8oz I fancied it would be close, judging the fish on length alone. That all changed when I lifted the net and saw the fish had a reasonable belly on it. Much meatier than the lean one I'd caught earlier, this was clearly a double.

On to the scales and they went up to 12lb 6oz (with the net). Minus the net, the verdict was 11lb 1oz. Thanks to Martin Roberts for venturing several pegs downstream to take some photos. 

A new pb for me and one of a series of season targets ticked straight off. Targets (all from rivers) include a 3lb perch, 5lb chub, 8lb bream, 6lb tench, 10lb carp and a 20lb pike. The barbel target was 10lb. Let's see how many of those seven I can achieve...

Hopefully with a few days off work planned for this week, I'll nick another target pretty quickly. It's good to be back on flowing water. Nothing else comes close.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Cameron Country

With a massive volume of water hitting the rivers in the early part of the week, things looked in doubt for the final weekend of the season. Fortunately further rain held off and I decided to leave the weekend days alone, in favour of a Monday off work.

I was in two minds. Barbel and chub on the Avon, or a drive out to pastures new in search of my first grayling. Not an easy choice when it meant driving straight past the Avon, but I rarely fish venues that hold the lady of the stream. With a full day available I decided to head south into the Cotswolds for a crack at the Windrush.

A lovely intriguing little river with plenty of fishable swims. I settled on a horseshoe bend and worked my way around it with a couple of rods.

I swapped between float fished maggot and a hair rigged experimental meaty bait on a straight lead. Nothing in swim one but swim two brought an immaculate chub to the float.

2lb 10oz 
A thump on the tip of the meat rod saw all hell break loose. Clearly a trout had taken a liking to it and after a brief but manic fight I slipped the net under a nice brownie of 3lb 4oz. Not what I'd turned up for, but an interesting change nonetheless.

It then went downhill as the all too familiar nudges on the tip, signalled that the signals were moving in. After a couple I took the hint and moved up towards a weirpool.

I made a couple more moves and spent time trotting some long glides with stick and pin. Nothing doing though so I dropped back in on the original area again. One more brownie to the float fished maggot. In fact the same meat munching brownie from earlier!

Slipped back for a second time, it has a couple of weeks of peace before the fly season starts.

A pleasant, if not overly productive end to the campaign. I'll definitely visit again in future though and maybe the grayling will show next time.

Unless there's any late submissions it looks like I finished third in the river section of the blogger's challenge (almost second, but deposed by a fine Mick Newey twenty plus Avon carp on the last day - well done Mick). We won't mention the other disciplines in the challenge!

I had set myself some targets earlier in the season. Top three was the overall river target which was just achieved and I thought I had a fair chance to top the river scorecard for carp, pike, tench and bream.

I managed top for pike and tench, although not sure how the latter survived, as it was only 4lb and was caught in the opening week of the season.  I expected to need something nearer to 6lb+.

I managed third for bream, but actually had a pb of 7lb 9oz, so there's some consolation in that. Carp, as for many other competitors, just didn't happen! I didn't exactly target them, but I fished enough likely areas where I expected to fluke one eventually.

Hats off to the river (and surely soon to be overall) challenge winner, James Dennison. Some fine river captures in his impressive list, including dace to over 1lb and roach to 2lb 10oz. I'd be happy with fish half that size!

Thanks to the guys who put the challenge together. It's been fun and hopefully we can do it again sometime. It actually continues until May on stillwaters and canals, but I'm taking a break for a couple of weeks now. Overdue house maintenance looms and I'd rather sort it while the rivers are off limits and I'm ticketless!

I'll be back in April for the final month of the challenge though, when I get my estate lake ticket back again. The search for a mythical two pound roach from its shallow waters will then probably dominate my fishing and provide ample frustration until the rivers reopen.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

A Slice of Fortune

Timing and luck can play such an important part in our fishing, as can other external influences. This weekend was a perfect demonstration of it for me.

For quite a while I've settled into a home routine that has mostly ruled out Saturday morning fishing. The weekly shop has been taking precedence instead. A few weeks ago that all changed though when my wife booked us a day out at Cheltenham races and the shopping had to be rescheduled.

We took the plunge into online shopping as a one off measure and it was a success. So much so, that we've continued with it each week since. So, with Mr Ocado offloading our goods on Friday evening and the river in great nick, it opened up a Saturday morning window of opportunity.

With the weather having been cool, dry and settled I was really looking forward to some piking. The river level had also dropped down significantly and it looked bang on.

Tackling a new section I decided I'd be as active as possible to maximise my chances - 20 minutes per swim maximum, using 2 deadbait rods and twitching them regularly.

My first swim yielded nothing, but I had unwanted company when an otter showed up in the margin to my right. I just heard it initially, but then it popped up right in front of me and swam off to a far bank bush. Not the best start.

I moved few yards downstream, but couldn't settle and then went down another peg. Absolutely nothing, bar a cormorant that appeared out of nowhere and popped up mid river. No bites and too many unwanted furry and feathered predators, wasn't doing much for my confidence. An hour wasted.

I upped sticks and went several pegs upstream. Out with a smelt and then I began baiting up rod two. A quick glance up and the float was already gone. I thought I'd got the depth setting wrong but the rod tip was banging around, confirming a proper take.

A sharp strike and I was attached to something heavy. It stayed low in the water but didn't give me too much grief. When I raised it up to the surface in front of me, my jaw dropped when I saw how big its head was. One more run and I manoevred it into the net.

It was an immense deep bodied fish and when I lifted if from the water, I knew it was a pb shaker. The digital scales wouldn't settle fully, probably because I was shaking too much! I plumped for the lowest reading and then got a second opinion from my Avons. They agreed on 23lb 13oz and confirmed a new pb for me.

For reference the mat is 38 inches long and the net is the XL version of the Savage Gear folding rubber net.

I lost focus for a while after that, but eventually got back into the groove and managed to nick another one before close of play. A low double of 11lb 14oz. It was trailing several feet of line and the longest trace I've ever seen. The wire trace was split into two parts, joined in middle. Why it was so long and why it had an unnecessary join is anyone's guess.

Whatever hook or hooks were attached to the trace were well down its belly and I couldn't get to them. I cut the trace as low down as possible. Not perfect but at least it went back with less baggage than before.

So there you have it. A great morning for me and it was all down to a racing trip causing a change in shopping habits. Otherwise it would never have happened!

That's my piking done with for the season now. I'll be looking for chub and maybe barbel in the last couple of weeks of the season.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Planning For The Luck Factor

I always like to head out with some kind of a plan for my day's fishing, but being a once a week pleasure angler it can often be quite vague and varied.

Last week saw the pike in stubborn mood and the weather has been odd since then. A day of rain saw the rivers filling right up again beyond comfort. Temperatures plunged too, but then we had a sharp rise again into the weekend and the return of windy conditions.

Luckily the rivers had a chance to recover from the rain and the internet suggested there would be about 10 inches of extra water, which would inevitably be coloured. I'd hatched a plan to give the pike a miss and to concentrate on bream and roach.

I had a swim in mind that's really sheltered when a strong south-westerly is blowing through. The problem is that it's a proper mud fest to get down to in winter. I made my way down with all the grace and sure footedness of an Irishman at the end of a St. Patrick's day session. I stayed upright though!

I settled in and balled in the usual half a dozen cricket ball sized offerings of groundbait. I'd kept them on the same line in a slack area between the main flow and a back eddy. The plan was to put a sleeper rod with pellet / paste (hoping for a bonus fish) to the extreme right edge of the bait. I'd then fish a straight lead over the rest of the bait. A simple enough plan and little to go wrong I thought. Wrong!

Rivers can easily change without warning you. Where it was previously clear, I now found myself being snagged up almost every cast on my preferred line for the straight lead. Something unpleasant must have been deposited during the recent surges of water. I'd already used up my quota of groundbait as I like to get it in place early and leave it to settle.

Things were slipping off plan and I had to make do with fishing just off the left side of my baited area. Not what I wanted, but it was as good as I could get and I had to plug on.

Bites weren't as quick as I expected but I began to pluck a few dace and roach out. All were quite small apart from one roach pushing 12oz that fell to a lobworm on the sleeper rod after I'd ditched the pellet.

Then came the bite I'd been waiting for. A slow take was met with solid thump. The rod arched over and line began peeling off the reel. In no time the fish had reached the far bank and I was fearing another losing battle.

For over 10 minutes I battled hard, knowing I had just a 3lb bottom and a size 14 micro barbed (crushed down) hook. I kept trying to figure out what it was and gradually the suspects began to narrow. Its obvious size ruled most out and left just barbel, carp and pike in the frame.

I made steady ground and finally got a glimpse of a fin. It was a pike, clearly a double and judging by the angle of the line, probably foul hooked. Great!

Knowing that I wasn't dealing with a potential pb barbel or carp I cranked up the pressure as much as I dare on the light set up. After another 5 minutes of straining I got lucky, managing to reverse park the pike first time into a barely adequate net.

The hook was delicately lodged in a fin and was lucky to hold out, having been slightly straightened.

It was a nice clean fish too that had clearly been on the feed. It weighed in at 14lb 9oz and was the best I'd banked this season. Just a shame it wasn't by design! Who needs plans?!

I finally got the plan right and managed a couple of bream before the session ended. Two typical samples that went 4lb 5oz and 4lb 4oz.

Cooler weather is moving in again this week and looks set to linger into next weekend. Critically it sounds likely to remain on the dry side. Hopefully an opportunity to do some proper river piking again if the rivers continue to drop...

Monday, 15 February 2016

Weathering the Storm

It's been a few weeks since my last post and quite honestly it has been a miserable fishing period for me. The odd poor decision has played a part, but the weather has been the main factor.

Three weeks ago I got it all wrong when tackling a new stretch of the Avon that was carrying a touch of extra water. I went for barbel, but it was probably too cold to be ideal for that species. I gave up after a biteless couple of hours and headed upstream to tackle pike. They weren't having any of it either and the first blank of the year was secured.

A week later and the river was too high for comfort, so I headed off to the estate lake for one last attempt before my ticket expired. Three hours of staring at a motionless quiver tip on a cold and windswept lake, sealed my first ever blank at the venue. The snowdrops put on a good show though!

Fast forward a week and the river had dropped nicely by the Friday, but it was all about to go wrong. Saturday was a filthy day and the river received by far its biggest influx of water this season. The Warwick gauge saw a rise of around 5ft in about 24 hours, which scuppered my weekend plans.

I did get some fishing therapy though, courtesy of a visit to Fosters of Birmingham. A recent birthday saw me acquiring some vouchers and I headed over to cash them in. It's a beast of a shop covering two floors and has a huge amount of stock. I had a chair in mind, but I wanted to test it out before buying.

I plumped for a JRC stealth x-lite model which is amazingly light at just over 3kg. This was the key factor for making the switch. I've pimped it up by incorporating some attachments to it and I've bought a bag to transport it. However the job lot now weighs more than my old 5kg chair! In fairness I'm really pleased with the whole package and the bag opens up other transportation options for when I want to do any roving.

On to this week and the rain held off to allow the rivers to recover quite nicely. Just about six inches above normal on the Warwick gauge was the situation facing me come Sunday. I headed out late morning with a two pronged attack. I wanted to go all out for pike, but bottled it in the end. Half a pint of turmeric boosted maggots was the back up in case the pike were absent.

And missing they were. Dace on the straight lead provided some sport, but no sign of the bream I hoped might show up. I retired the lead rod to give the pike more attention, which basically meant upping the twitching rate of the bait.  It eventually paid off when I banked a stubborn fighting low double of 10lb 8oz. Excuse the poor photo as I'd left my camera at home and had to use my phone.

It's a measure of just how poor and fragmented my pike campaign has been this season, that this was my only double so far. It was a good excuse to try out another recent acquisition from Ebay, in the shape of some aptly named Avon scales. Second hand of course, as these well regarded scales are long since out of production.

They are in decent enough nick though and much bigger and sturdier than I'd imagined. Initially the zeroing wheel was jamming, but a quick opening up of the key parts and a little tweak, soon had that resolved. Tests against my digital scales also gave some favourable results with weights matching to within 1oz across a range of weights up to 24lb.

I pressed on in search of more pike and even slopped my way through the mud to my banker swim to improve the odds. I also upped the ante by increasing to two rods. They just weren't having it on this occasion though. That's pike I guess.

I have no idea where next week will take me. I guess the weather will have the deciding vote...

Monday, 18 January 2016

Snow Joke

With the rivers out of sorts, the first two trips of 2016 were on the estate lake. The first yielded a predictably average return for the venue, based on my previous efforts. Seven roach in the 6oz to 10oz bracket and my first roach/bream hybrid from the lake.

The return trip in cooler weather was much shorter and largely unproductive. Bites were hard to come by and lightning fast mainly. Easily missable when the action is in short supply and the focus switches to keeping warm. The best of three roach was around 12oz.

On to this week and after resigning myself to another battle with the roach midweek, the rivers started to play ball as we moved into the weekend. With a choice of three to go at, the Anker initially looked favourite, but a late blip left the Avon as the front runner.

Waking up to a good covering of snow on my car, I rubbed my hands and thought snow pike. It's a void in my hypothetical scrap book and this was the chance to close it off. With pike the main focus, I gave my new club book a miss in favour of my other stretch which I have much better knowledge of in higher water conditions.

As I got closer to my destination a reality check started to dawn on me. If you want a snow pike there are two things you need: snow and pike. Green fields with no hint of the white stuff were all I could see though! Bugger! I'd left the snow behind somewhere up the A46 and the moment was gone.

It therefore became a mixed session with deadbaits to the right margin and a maggot / straight lead approach down the middle. A jack first cast raised my spirits. It didn't take the static bait. It grabbed the smelt just as I was about to lift it clear of the water on the retrieve.

A decent looking bream rolling just above my swim caught my eye so I increased the groundbait and sat back. Within the hour I had a modest one in the net of 3lb 8oz.

Annoyingly I think I bumped a couple of others off on the strike later in the session, not to mention the one that got away. Actually I have no idea what it was that I lost and after close on 10 minutes of being bossed around on light gear, I suffered a hook pull. It was an odd fight though and my guess is a decent bream foul hooked. They can often punch above their weight when foul hooked and this one had the benefit of a good flow of water too.

No more bream but I had a few roach and dace, along with one more jack that took a big chunk of sardine. Nice to get 100% success with pike hook ups this time. Sure beats 0% last time out!

I was hoping to listen to a bit of test cricket, but Stuart Broad put paid to that a day eartlier. Can't fault him for that though and long may it continue. So, it was left to the wildlife to amuse me throughout the day. A Robin popped by and had a helping or two of maggots.

A buzzard and kingfisher proved far too elusive for the camera, as did an otter that caught me by surprise. The first I knew it had reached the platform just a few feet in front of me. This was the closest I'd ever been to one in the wild. I attempted to get a photo but it finally spotted me and dived away. All I got was the pattern of bubbles it left behind.

After a month away from running water it was good to be back. A proper winter's day, a few fish, the one that got away and plenty of wildlife. Not a soul in sight either. Just needed a bit of snow to cap it off!