Thursday, 29 November 2018

No(fishing)vember

Another month drifts by and there was next to no fishing for me. DIY work has somewhat swallowed up most of the limited spare time I've had.

The good news is that I'm on track to finish the current phase of work this weekend, leaving me with a whole day to indulge myself. Weather permitting, I sense a rare dawn to dusk session is a shoe in.

November fishing activity won't take much summing up. Sessions, proper bites and fish were all equal at one each.


Tackling the Avon, I fished a deadbait rod (smelt), hoping I might sneak a zander. It remained biteless for the entire 4 hours. Luncheon meat was used on the other rod and although quiet, I did get one positive enquiry which yielded a small barbel of 5lb 7oz.


Being a bit of a statto by trade, I like to keep records to look back on. The barbel on the stretch in question are showing a downturn in size for me this year. Across the previous 3 seasons I had a pleasing running average of a shade over 9lb, but this season's fish average out to just over 7lb so far. The number of fish are similar though, so that remains encouraging.

Significant rain would be most welcome, as long as it doesn't wipe the river out over Christmas again. I'm hoping to make the most of an extended festive break this year.

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

October

A strange month comes to an end. The weather has been quite diverse at times. Hot, cold, windy, but not really much rain to shout about in the Midlands.

It's the lack of rain that has rather dented my enthusiasm. I've been hoping to catch the river in prime condition for a shot at a double figure barbel,  but it remains on the back burner.

Since my last post I had a short (2 hour) after work dabble on a new stretch of the Upper Avon. Great to see it, but with weed still relatively thick, it's a tough cookie at this stage of the year. Best left a while longer, although one particular peg really grabbed my attention. A return is planned for mid November if conditions are OK.



A lazy Sunday afternoon trip to the Anker didn't throw up a great deal from the gin clear water. Just the odd silver fish to the stick float rig. Pike didn't want to play - or more to the point, they didn't play fair!



I'd had a deadbait out all session. Not a sniff. On packing up I jettisoned the bait with a sharp tug, leaving it clearly in view on the bottom just beyond the margin.

I packed the gear in the car which was just behind me. A quick check before moving off to make sure nothing was left behind. Yep, all good - even the deadbait left beyond the margin was no longer littering the river bed. Hang on?! I've been done over while my back was turned,



Pike rod back out with net and another smelt was dropped out. Two minutes later a pike goes nose to nose with the bait, staring it out for 2-3 minutes. It then flipped the bait on its side and chomped down on it. I struck, but all too early. I knew that we'd likely be parting company and after a brief tussle, the hooks were ejected. Not a huge fish thankfully, but it would have saved my day.

A week later I didn't even get out at all. A rare soggy day that coincided with my only window of opportunity, did nothing to inspire confidence. With alcohol excess also being a factor, a simple decision to stay at base camp was taken.

Next up was a rare foray out to the far flung pastures of the middle Avon. Lots of legwork required, but I had high expectations for this venture. It didn't transpire into a real rod bending session though. Just the one bend as it happened, but boy was it a belting battle.

Spotting an opportunistic pike mullering small fish on a regular basis in the oxygenated water, I trotted a smelt fairly shallow. I just allowed it to drift around the natural eddy. It didn't take long to get snaffled and all hell broke loose.

After several runs and some careful avoidance of near bank snags, I eventually guided it into the net. A decent double at 13lb 5oz, which eclipses anything I caught all last season. Better to come in the season ahead I hope, but I'll take that for starters.


The big hope for the month was still to come in the shape of the River Test. The main mission was simple - get the grayling monkey off my back. Big pike, roach or chub were also on the short list.


I love these indulgent days out. A day ticket costing more than some of my season tickets, sounds obscene. However, we just don't have this type of river within easy reach of me, so sometimes you have to treat yourself. I work hard enough all week after all!

The weather wasn't kind to us though. No recent rain, coupled with a big drop in temperature on the eve of our visit. Throw in a biting northerly wind, a sharp overnight frost and a multitude of  excuses were on standby.


I began trotting maggots just below where a carrier joined the main river. An early bite saw a bumped fish, but then nothing after several more runs down. Did I spook them perhaps? I moved above the carrier for a longer trot. Still nothing doing.

Plan B saw me ignoring the biting downstream wind on the main river, in favour of the more sheltered carrier. I arrived at the top of the beat just as Charlie had worked his way around from the main river. I left him to tackle the first pool while I plundered a small run towards a bend.

A couple of casts and the float dipped. A small fish, but unmistakably the lady of the stream. My first ever grayling was in the bag - all of 4oz maybe. Who cared though? I didn't!


Job done and anything else was now a bonus. I almost banked a second - even smaller - one, but some comical handling of my 15ft rod saw me grappling with overhanging tree and fish in tandem. The fish slipped away while I retrieved my rig with my net. And then the swim died.

Despite plenty of endeavour it wasn't proving easy. Charlie managed a grayling and lost a better one. He was also picking off the odd small trout. Brian was battling with his centrepin, trying to get to grips with non-fixed spool angling. A tough ask in the conditions and he abandoned it as a bad job.

For the post lunch session I wanted to head for deeper water. Unfortunately my preferred area was spoken for, so we settled down elsewhere, bedded in and chucked our feeders out. Trotting was banished. A suicidal trout gave me the runaround, but nothing else showed for any of us.


Eventually all of the downstream rods moved back above us, and, with nothing to lose but a nagging wind, I headed off alone to seek shelter and renewed hope for the last couple of hours.

An hour in and I'd had nothing. Deadbait motionless, maggots untouched. I'd been feeding liquidised bread through a feeder, so I switched to flake hookbait for one last fling. Straight away I had a bite which I duly missed. Straight back out and the tip banged around almost instantly. No mistake this time, although not quite the chub I'd hoped it might be, but a 4lb 1oz pb trout.


Next cast, rod barely put down and the tip was pulling around again...

And so it continued with another 3 trout in a short mad spell. I lost one too as it jumped around 2ft clear of the water, ejected the hook and the feeder narrowly missed my left ear! The last fish fell to a deadbait rather than bread.


Not quite the coarse fish bounty I'd hoped for, but as a one off it made for a fun experience in tricky conditions.

Closer to home I had a week off work to catch up on home improvements. A short fishing window opened up on Halloween afternoon, so I headed off to the Anker for predators. I changed my mind on the way though and ended up on a small pit instead!

It's a backup water I don't fish very much, as it lacks tranquility due to its location. It's a nice water though with pike to low twenties and zander nudging double figures. It would be quiet midweek.


With only 2 hours to spare I hopped between a couple of pegs using smelt deadbait. Initially I started with a heavier weight in the deep water, but I eventually scaled back to a single SSG shot to give a slower drop. That change triggered an instant reaction and my only fish of the session.


A nice clean jack of maybe 6lb that gave the dullest fight ever! My first predator from the venue though.

I have no idea what's next. Family matters are dominating things at the moment, but I'll be looking out for any chance to wet a line as soon as possible.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

The Big Blank Off

Two men with a passion for rivers. A day's work under their belts, they'd join forces for a couple of hours in pursuit of predators. Who would earn the bragging rights?

A painfully clear Avon was the venue. However, with a good depth and dipping light levels, a degree of optimism was daring to surface in both camps.

In the red corner, Mick had the run of the pegs down to the weir. In the blue corner, I took the pegs towards the upstream limit. Our paths never crossed, but updates were shared throughout.


It wasn't exactly a thriller down the river. A single chomped smelt dropped take for Mick. I'm claiming a single tentative enquiry that saw two solid short dips on the float about 30 seconds apart. That was it! A no score draw. 

Still, it was a nice enough evening for early October and much better than staying on at work. Even I'd take blanking over working any day!

Later in the evening I acquired some of my late father's old fishing tackle. My brother was having a clear out and offered it to me rather than just dumping it.  


My dad didn't have much gear and what he did have was rarely of any great quality.  Part of a large Irish family, brought up in the 1930s / 40s, he had a strong make do and mend attitude.

He never bought a rod in all the years I fished with him. He only had one and it hadn't seen the light of day for maybe 20 years. In his latter years I'd always encouraged him to use my gear - largely to stop him carrying his own, due to his health issues.

Taking his old rod from a damp and musty rod bag, I expected it to be rotten. Not so though. The blank itself remains in good nick. Some eyes have been knocked about and the cork handle is a little warped. 

It's not a rare or valuable high end blank, but the joints all slot together perfectly.  It feels reasonable enough and theres no structural damage.

The tip section looks like it's suspiciously short of a few inches though - evidence of the mend mentality no doubt. The handle is too long for my liking, but that's soon remedied (and would conveniently eradicate the warped area).

All things considered, it would probably still give some reasonable service as a heavy float rod for species like tench or larger bream. 

And so a plan is born. I've been looking at more and more retro / vintage tackle on Ebay recently and quite fancied a restoration project for later in the year when the dark evenings hit. This has dropped into place nicely, so I'm going to strip it back and attempt a full makeover. 

Hopefully I'll be putting it back into service sometime next year. It wouldn't feel right just consigning it to the local landfill site. That would surely amount to betrayal.

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Summer Catch Up

With lots going on in my daily life and fishing life, I've neglected the blog for quite some time. I started putting some notes down several weeks ago, but could never quite pull it together for a post. A case of writer's constipation I guess!

I contemplated stopping altogether, but I know I'd regret that in years to come. The blog is primarily a point of reference for me personally and I don't want to lose that.  So, with renewed vigour as we move into Autumn, I'll attempt to kick-start it off again and try to be more regular again future.

The summer has whizzed by for me. It will certainly linger in the memory for the long hot dry spell we suffered. Fishing conditions weren't exactly great for much of it, but I've still had my share of trips.


My best laid plans were somewhat disrupted  (in a good way) when George Burton's syndicate got off the ground. Suddenly I found myself with a whole new load of options to go at and I've been busy getting myself acquainted with them.

For me they're mostly new venues, but with one old venue that I last fished 20+ years ago. The real fun in this venture though, is the unknown. Joining something established often brings a degree of predictability with it. This is completely different. Not quite a blind punt - more of a calculated one - but with plenty of uncharted territory and lots of opportunity for discovery along the way.

Most of the summer has been spent just keeping it simple. I wanted to get back to trotting a float more regularly - something I've neglected a lot in recent years. I acquired a late 1960s Bruce & Walker float rod earlier in the year and it has been put to good use on many occasions.

Rather than trying to recount individual sessions, I'll get up to date by sharing some photos from my travels across four counties, five rivers and a couple of stillwaters.

Tranquil Stour

Anker
7lb 4oz summer Anker pike



9lb 3oz - Avon

9lb - Avon

Ruffe day on the Avon

10lb 14oz - stalked from syndicate pool

Avon

Avon chub 

Leam perch 1lb 5.5oz

Avon - 4lb 12oz

Avon - 6lb 4oz
Herefordshire estate lake

Glorious Wye
And finally a tale of two Marks, both returning to fishing after long absences.

Mark One

The setting was a Herefordshire estate lake and I was helping Mark to rediscover the joys of float fishing.


As we moved into the afternoon his reel suffered what we both agreed was a terminal demise and I set him up with one of my spares. While retackling I also suggested a change of float to something heavier, to allow him to make longer casts. With the depth plumbed I attached some shot and asked Mark to flick it out to check the lie of the float.


Out it went, but as he retrieved it I saw the rod seriously arch over. Caught on the bottom I presumed, but it quickly became apparent he'd got a fish on, as the rod tip started lunging. With Mark never having caught anything beyond 3lb before, I assumed my best Corporal Jones (Dad’s Army) impression. “Don't panic, don't panic!”.


Managing to quash Mark's initial natural instinct to reel like mad, he then played the rest of the battle out perfectly. On light gear we managed to coax a pike of 9lb into the net. Presumably it saw the flash of the hook and struck out at it. Luckily the hooklength held out by the slenderest of margins - breaking under minimal pressure when tested afterwards.

It made his weekend - even if he was a little reluctant to handle it!


Mark Two

The Avon this time and another Mark returning to fishing. We'd talked during the journey and established he'd never caught a pike. I predicted it might change soon.


He started off trotting maggots under a stick float and given the swim choice, I knew the inevitable would happen soon enough. First strike and his rod arched over. “It’s a decent one” he shouts. I'm hoping chub, but already thinking pike - and so it was. Nearly landed, but it let go at the last.


It took a couple more encounters later in the session before he got lucky and the hook lodged in the scissors of a fish. Expertly played I might add, Mark carefully guided his first pike into the net. Less than 5lbs, but good fun on light gear and we had the happiest angler ever to guest on this blog!


I hope I find the pike this easy when I start targeting them! Great to see others enjoying themselves though - often more rewarding than our own exploits.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

A Short One

Three hours to play with, so I headed back to the easy access Anker stretch for my chub fix.

Donning my waders for a change, I positioned myself mid river and fired out some bread to see what was at home beneath the cover. Nothing! Not a sausage.

What I thought was a safe distance and a good ambush point, obviously wasn't. I'd clearly spooked them, as I had them taking bread earlier when I threw freebies from the bank. Lesson learned.

I left them to regroup while I went downstream for a spot of trotting. Plenty of bites for an hour so from mainly perch and chublets, with a roach and gudgeon.

Back to the chub and I stayed bankside this time and plopped in a freelined flake offering. The first run slipped across the flow and outside the killing zone. Second run I got it right and held it back slightly.

It didn't take long to become attached to a decent chub. After a spirited battle in the shallow water the prize was banked. A venue best for me at 4lb 2oz. I'm sure there's scope to push the bar higher and hopefully beyond the magical 5lb mark.



Next up is a further bit of exploration on a new venue. Looking forward to treading some new ground.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Off And Running

Batteries recharged, another running water season is now firmly underway.

The closed season pretty much did what it said on the tin for me. I had three short sessions in cool weather and in keeping with the form I endured throughout winter, I mustered up a single canal skimmer in three outings.

Fortunately I had plenty to keep my mind off fishing and the three month river sabbatical seemed to drift by pretty quickly. A stag do, a wedding with best man duties (in Ireland), an 80s music cruise and a couple of family mishaps all helped to keep my mind largely occupied.

Once again I have various tickets covering a few rivers. Some old, some new, some returning. Without doubt too many options and definitely not enough time to explore them. Not that I'm complaining. It's the most varied and enthralling set of tickets I've ever held, with lots of new ground to explore.

Zoom to the centre and spot the chub!

No challenges to participate in this year and I'm not initially setting any targets either. The early season focus is on getting around different waters and just catching fish again, while learning as much as possible. I'll probably be more selective as we head into autumn.

The opening week or so was mostly spent trotting maggot and caster under a stick float. Fish were fairly obliging to that approach on all three rivers I tackled. Nothing remarkable to report, but a good mix of species (dace, chub, roach, perch, bleak, eel, gudgeon).


Best fish of the week was a 3lb 14oz chub, stalked from a goldfish bowl of a peg on a new stretch of the Anker. The fish are suckers for bread and it's just a case of priming them up, before running a freelined offering through their holding point beneath a willow. It's instant action.


The only difficulty is selectivity. Whichever chub nails the bait first is what you get. The rest are invariably spooked. I'm quite taken by this little stretch though. Big chub (6lb+) and barbel (14lb+) are in residence, but will take some extracting. Pike were clearly present too in one swim where I was catching plenty of perch. I had two under my feet at one point. I'll be investigating those in the autumn.

A week into the season and I had my first short session after chub or barbel down the Avon. Conditions were poor (hot and dry), but I had some unexpected time available one evening and I figured I wasn't going to catch anything sat in my garden!

One rod with a piece of meat on a hair rig, with some free offerings scattered around. Nothing for an hour plus, then a proper old pull on the tip. Strike, miss and I just put it down to bad luck.

Rebait, cast, wait, proper pull around, strike, miss, puzzled look.

Rebait, cast, wait, proper pull around, strike, miss, more puzzled looks, starting to get cheesed off.

Rebait, cast, wait, proper pull around, strike, miss, very puzzled look, now seriously getting peed off!

By now the penny dropped and I figured I had a few cagey chub in the swim, so the hair was trimmed off and I simply buried the hook. Very old school.

Rebait, cast, wait, proper pull around, strike, connect. Bingo! Not exactly anything to crow about though - I doubt it scraped 2lb. A moral victory nonetheless, even if the chub were already 4-1 up and cruising to victory.

Foolishly I thought my rig change would see better fortunes, but the little blighters taunted me until I left with pluck after pluck on the bait.

I did manage a couple more - best around 3lb - but no sign of a barbel. Plenty more time for those when conditions will be more suitable.

Next up a week later was a fishing and football double header. Rather than watching England's quarter final encounter, I opted to find a shaded peg on the Anker and listen to it while doing a spot of trotting.


Lots of perch obliged over the couple of hours while England secured their semi final berth. Nothing huge, although one of them managed to snag me in the lilies and the rubbing on the line eventually saw us parting company.

We resumed contact later on though when the same fish was banked. It was proudly sporting my earlier hook, with maggots still attached!


A move to the banker chub swim was the final act of the session. One chance with freelined bread beneath a tree before exiting. It went deeper under the willow than I expected, but a sharp pluck on the tip and I was in business. Not one of the beasts though - probably one around 2.5lb. Almost a booby prize really when you consider what lurks within.


In true British style it's hard not to moan about the weather. The EA gauge that I use for the Avon is currently reading lower than at any time in my blogging years.

A far cry from the winter months when I was moaning for different reasons. No immediate sign of change either. Just got to get on with it and choose wisely I guess.

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.