Sunday, 31 October 2010

The Lagoon

Lanny's Lagoon - 8am to 5pm.

Having looked at our challenge scorecards there were some glaring Carp misses. We haven't spent any time chasing them this year and time has pretty much run out with the temperatures dropping. I'd remembered reading some posts from other blogs about this venue, so I suggested we give it one day to put the Carp points to bed.

As some of you are no doubt aware, two weeks previously it had been a murder scene and the fishery had to close while investigations ran their course. Reminders were clear to see on the way in with posters asking for help. We were first to arrive, closely followed by two more anglers who were also fishing it for the first time. They did start to fish, but left very quickly and we ended up with the whole place to ourselves for the day.

We went for the main pool as it held more species we wanted to go at. Leaves were a major problem though and one side of the pool was largely unfishable. We settled on pegs 6 & 7, with Brian taking peg 6 as it had less trees to get tangled in! He also had the benefit of the feature boat in his swim - the resident bird scarer.

I plumbed up and went for a float approach just beyond the ledge into about 7 feet of water. Over an hour in and I'd had nothing. Brian on the other hand had gone for a straight lead approach and first cast scored a bullseye by hitting the feature boat! No damage was done though and it wasn't long before he had his first fish on.

I was pondering over my baiting plan at the time and he shouted over that it was a Ghostie. Initially I thought he was pulling my leg, but it looked genuine enough to me. It was an ugly looking bugger though and weighed in at 2lb 1oz. 2 points to Brian.

Brian continued to catch a few fish while I was blanking - Hereford in reverse as he put it! I eventually started to pick up a few bits fairly close in on a more regular basis, when the owner came round for his money. We chewed the fat for a while, during which time he said that some fish had recently been stocked from Abbey Fields Pool in Kenilworth. He drew attention to a Koi Carp and an Albino Carp that had gone in during the stocking.

No sooner had he walked away and I was into something better, which I soon discovered was a Common Carp of maybe 4lbs. "2 points", I shouted, "but only if doesn't come off". Why did I say that? I played it very carefully with light tackle, but the size 18 barbless pulled out when I thought I'd got things well under control. Nil points!

Fish were topping all round the swim so I moved up in the water to see what was on offer. Although the ever increasing volume of leaves made life difficult, I started to catch regularly at 18ins deep, picking up a few Crucians to close on 1lb. I didn't need Crucians though, but I know a man who did! The occasional Rudd also made an appearance, but nothing to nick the bonus point.

I kept ringing the changes and a decision to drop back over an area I'd baited early doors, proved to be a very wise move. A decent fish took the bait straight away and again with light tackle I had to play it carefully. I eventually saw the fish and realised it was a pale looking fish I'd tossed a few pieces of bread to earlier in the session when it swam past my rod tip.

Although I was on light gear, the fight went without a hitch in the seemingly snag free swim. When Brian stuck the net under it, we realised it was probably the Koi Carp the owner had stocked recently - something he confirmed when I showed him the photo later. It was a stunning fish of exactly 9lb.

I was no longer bothered about the earlier lost common. I caught some more bits, but nothing else of note, although I did momentarily connect with a lump of some sort. However, all I got for my reward was a big scale on the hook, so it was no doubt foul hooked.

Brian tried for some Crucians but he couldn't find any. He nearly snared a decent Carp though that was feeding on the surface, but it wasn't having his bread.

Commercial Carp fishing isn't my cup of tea, but this place definitely wasn't in that mould. It came across as a more laid back fishery and the woodland setting is quite pretty. I imagine when it's in full bloom in the summer it's even more appealing. Quite a pleasant little place really and somewhere I'd happily pop back to during the close season.

Finally I must give a mention to a session Brian and Charlie had on the Alveston stretch of the Avon last Thursday. They had been texting updates to me throughout the day at work and I was most peed off not to have witnessed the day's events. Brian bagged his best ever Bream at exactly 5lb, while Charlie had a stunning Perch of 3lb 5oz! Apparently it had been pestering him all day, attacking fish on the way in and he snared it with a livebait in the end. Brian's camera was out of action, but there are some photos on a mobile phone that I'm hoping to get hold of.

He also had a couple of small Pike on legered maggot! I suspect they are sitting in wait near the baited area and nailing the prey fish the moment they put up any resistance to the strike. Annoyingly, he lost a small Carp of about 4lb close in, which would have been his first from a river.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Further Wye Adventures

After the stunning experience on day 1, I had a tinge of regret going into day 2. We had opted to fish the Hereford & District AA waters near the town, opposite Belmont golf course. This stretch has a pedigree for throwing up big weights if conditions are right, but reports suggested it can be a moody customer. Today it was in a mood!

Access to pegs was difficult (mostly steep banks), albeit if it had a few more feet of water on, it would actually be a lot easier. We settled on a long double peg that looked inviting enough, but I had a bad vibe from the off.

We tried everything throughout the course of the session (even pulling out the Pike gear), but the fish weren't having it. All we could catch were tiny Dace and Minnows that were plentiful in the margins and Brian decided to fill his boots with the latter to earn a point for the challenge. I forgot to mention on my day 1 report that I sneaked a Minnow out, much to Brian's annoyance. He took great pleasure in ticking it off the list!

Despite only being about 8 miles away from where we were the previous day, it felt like we were fishing a different river. Other anglers trudged past reporting similarly poor catches, so at least we weren't alone. The main excitement was the occasional stray golf ball plopping into the river a few yards downstream. A busy Kingfisher gave some entertainment though and the sunny conditions made for a fairly pleasant day. Just a pity the fish weren't interested!

Next time we won't make the same mistake - we'll go for 2 days on the WUF waters. There's no guarantee that they will fish well, but the whole experience was just that bit more private and special. Although day 2 was hardly a hellish experience, I can get the whole dog walking, gate slamming, "caught anything mate?" experience quite easily on the Avon if I want it.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Wye Adventures

Wow, what a river!

I'd decided to make a trip to the River Wye after I'd read some of the reports on the Wye Usk Foundation site. At up to £20 a shot it's not a cheap day ticket, but for a one off experience it had to be worth a go. Brian was up for it, so we planned a 2 day trip, with the second day being a more leisurely approach nearer to Hereford.

Day 1 was on the Lower Ballingham beat which is between Ross-On-Wye and Hereford. The stretch is just outside the village of Hoarwithy, tucked away amongst some stunning scenery. The approach to the fishery took us up the valley and once we got sight of the river with mist rolling along it, the anticipation started to rise.

We parked up at the end of a disused railway line and reality kicked in. We we basically at the same level as the old bridge and although the river was maybe 20 feet in front of us, it was about 50 foot below us! Having brought everything bar the kitchen sink, we now realised we had to lug it down a long flight of steep steps.

As we had the luxury of Brian's transit van we had chucked in a wheelbarrow to make transporting the gear a bit easier - not banking on 50 steps of course! We carried the barrow down and went back for the rest of the gear. To be honest it probably did us good because it was very cold first thing and the ground had a fair old white covering. The exercise warmed us up and the sight of steam rising off Brian's head was quite amusing!

Having done some homework, we knew that it wasn't going to be easy finding swims that were easily accessible. A walk two meadows upstream found just 2 pegs, so we came back to the old bridge where there was a double peg. It looked shallow though and there were a couple of dozen swans camped across the river rooting around for food, which was likely to make like difficult.

We wandered downstream and found one peg which looked fishable for two with a bit of creative gardening. We decided to give this one a go as it was in an area where the river looked a shade deeper, albeit there were no obvious features. The plan was to give it about 4 hours and if it wasn't producing we'd hop in the van and try the extreme downstream section about 3/4 of a mile away.

I kicked off with a pellet approach, using an open end feeder loaded with hemp / halibut crush / crumb mix. I admit to being clueless with pellets and I've never used them. However, the reports suggested that pellets were the way to go, so I tied up some hair rigs and bought a job lot of halibut and crab pellets.

I didn't have to wait too long for the first bite. The tip flew round, but I quickly realised my mistake. I was using a baitrunner reel and I'd got the settings wrong. The reel was in free spool mode and when I grabbed for the rod, in the excitement I didn't enagage the reel and created a mighty bird's nest on the reel with the freshly loaded line. I had to reel the fish in by pulling the line in by hand, which is not much fun when your attached to a Barbel. I won the battle though and was on the scoreboard with a fish of 4lb 13oz.

The next few hours was just a procession of Barbel. Here's a few of them, starting with the pick of the bunch which was the 4th fish of the day and weighed 8lb 10oz:

This one was 6lb 13oz:

After 10 barbel, things started to slow down. I wasn't sure if it was the now bright conditions, or whether the swim had been emptied or the fish spooked. I switched to maggot and had instant success with a Chub of 3lb 9oz.

Another one of 3lb 6oz followed very quickly and then the Barbel moved back in and I had 4 more of those. The best of them was a long lean fish of 7lb 10oz.

At this point I'd started to do some serious maths and began to realise that I might just break the magical ton for the first time - I was in the high 80s. Frustratingly Brian was on a blank, sitting just 15 feet upstream from me and using the same tactics.

He eventually opened his account with a Chub of 2lb 2oz and there was a sense of relief that he was off the mark, but it wasn't the Barbel we both wanted him to catch.

I pressed on with the maggots and picked up a Chub, then a Barbel and I was now just 4lb 2oz short of a ton. One more lunge on the rod tip as we entered the final hour, resulted in a 4lb 12oz Barbel and I'd done something I never imagined possible. 100lb 10oz of fish from a low, clear river, following an overnight frost. Wow!

I admit to slightly switching off at that point, but there was still a mission to be accomplished - a Barbel for Brian. He manfully stuck it out and went for crab pellet or bust and it paid off. He hooked into a Barbel and I think I played every moment of it with him. He guided it in carefully and it weighed in at 4lb 8oz. Relief all round because time was running out.

Just like buses though, he wasn't done and 2 more Barbel graced his landing net in the next half hour. The last one was the best at 4lb 9oz and also gave rise to probably my favourite picture of the year so far. Barbel, with the moon just poking up over the trees and reflecting in the river. A perfect end to a stunning experience.

It's something we will definitely do again next year. I can thoroughly recommend the Wye Usk Foundation to anyone. There are cheaper options around, but the package gives you a good degree of exclusivity (depending on choice of venue), which just makes the day feel so much more special.

For the record, the full scorecard was:

Sean - 16 Barbel (4-13, 5-2, 3-7, 8-10, 6-12, 6-2, 5-12, 6-13, 6-12, 5-0, 7-10, 5-5, 4-11, 5-4, 4-15, 4-12); 3 Chub (3-9, 3-6, 1-15)

Brian - 3 Barbel (4-8, 3-7, 4-9); 1 Chub (2-2)

A report from day 2 on a different stretch will follow tomorrow (the pub is beckoning me now!). As a taster though, a fair summary would be utter shite! Definitely a case of after the lord mayor's show - but that's fishing I guess.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Make Hay While the Sun Shines

River Avon - Alveston. 8-15am to 5pm.

We decided to revisit the scene of last week's enjoyable session. Unlike the previous visit, we were greeted with sunshine and a flat calm river with a tinge of mist - most idyllic.

We figured on the theory that if it isn't broken, don't fix it and so we headed for the same pegs as last week. Tactics were similar. In fact tactics are fairly similar most weeks for me. 5 balls of bait on the feeder line, 2 on the close in float line with a couple of bait droppers full of maggots and loose feed regularly over the top.

Bites were once again plentiful in both our swims, but they were far harder to hit this week. In fact we missed far more than we caught. By midday we'd both had our quota of small dace. The odd Roach, Chublet and Bleak put in an appearance too, but the best fish we could muster was a solitary Perch each in the 8-10oz range. It was frustrating more than anything.

I brought a few small Sprat deadbaits with me, so with last week's Pike in mind I set up a rod to do a bit of wobbling. It didn't take long to get the first hit and the culprit was a fish I'd have to describe as a Pikelet. I wouldn't call it a jack for fear insulting jacks! Nonetheless, it was nice to bank a Pike by design for once.

Sorry for the photo which is more hands than Pike, but it was a feisty little devil that wouldn't stay still.

I pursued the wobbling and had another fish straight afterwards. If the previous one was a Pikelet, this was a MicroPike:

The Pike continued to harrass and taunt us for the rest of the session. I had another take on a wobbled bait but the hook didn't set. A Dace caught on the float rig also got a right old mangling from a Pike that held on for a fair while before deciding to give it up as a bad job before I could net it.

At the death I lost a better fish at the net that looked in the 7lb range. It had taken a small fish and managed to get itself hooked, but unfortunately the Pike spooked at the net and the small hook pulled out at the end of its run.

Brian also had a go for them with a lure and he managed to hook one close in, but the hooks slipped early in the fight and the fish got away.

Between the Pike action I did manage to get some action from another predatory fish. I had been after a decent Perch by legering worm to no avail. I'd only just switched back on to the float line with a couple of red maggots when I connected to this fella:

It weighed 1lb 10oz and is my best for the season so far. I still can't crack a two pounder from the river though!

In terms of the day, it was another big thumbs up for the healthiness of the Avon - loads of fish topping and biting throughout the day. The signs for the future also look good if the huge numbers of small fry in the margins are anything to go by.

Next stop for both of us is the River Wye for a 2 day stint. Most of my prep work is now done, but with serious volumes of hemp cooking still outstanding, I don't think I'm going to be too popular at home over the next few days!

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Faith Restored

River Avon, Alveston.

If you've read any posts from my previous visits to this stretch, you'll know it has been a struggle. Aside from the odd slab and Chub, it has yielded precious little else. I'd liken it to the Leamington AA's Wasperton stretch - very difficult in the summer months when the water is clear and the fish lie low in the weed & cabbages during the day.

10 weeks on since our last visit and Autumn was clearly taking hold. The willows were starting to look a little sorry for themselves, while pegs that had previously been difficult to fish due to heavy weed / lily growth, were now very managable. We settled on a couple pegs we'd never fished before that were midway bewteen 2 areas we'd struggled on previously.


The wind was blowing through a fair bit directly downstream, which made float presentation difficult. Equally, it didn't help bite registration on the tip either. However, I decided to start off with the tip and balled in the customary 6 balls of groundbait just beyond an overhanging willow towards the middle of the river.

First chuck and the tip banged round. I thought I'd imagined it, or had perhaps knocked the rod accidentally. I'd always struggled for bites here in the past! I cast out again and the tip banged round again - definitely a bite this time and I was now starting to get hopeful. Third cast and I finally hooked a fish - a Roach of about 5oz. The bites continued consistently and Perch, Chub and some Dace soon followed.

Then I connected with something all together more solid that I wasn't sure about. It felt too ponderous for a Chub, but was a bit more spirited than a Bream. It woke up a bit more when I got it close in and I could see it was a decent Chub. It went exactly 4lb and was in mint condition. Quite unusual in the larger Chub I tend to catch - they generally seem to be the battle hardened old warriors bearing various scars.

After the Chub I continued to pick up bits and Brian was doing likewise on the next peg on a close in float line, while hoping for something bigger on his leger rig. I saw him leap up and his float rod arched over. The clutch gave a bit of line and he was into something a bit more interesting. Brian carefully played the fish and we eagerly awaited a glimpse of his prize. I assumed it was a Chub, but we were pleasantly surprised when it broke the surface and we saw it was a Tench. It weighed in at 3lb 2oz.

I recounted my encounters with river Tench over the years and I could only recall having caught 8 of them in just under 20 years and none in recent memory. It was Brian's first from a river and put a big smile on both our faces. Brian also needed a Tench point, so to pick it up from a river made it very satisfying.

Bites continued in numbers but they were very difficult ot hit on the feeder line. I switched to worm and instantly had a better fish. It didn't actually feel very big at first but it perked up when I got it close in. My jaw dropped when I saw it was another Tench. Having not seen one for years, we'd had one each in the space of an hour! It weighed in at 4lb 10oz, which beats my previous river best by 9oz.

Later on another angler popped round for a chat. We mentioned that we'd had a couple of Tench and he seemed perplexed. He'd fished the area for 20 years and had never seen one. Pure luck on the day, or just skillful anglers? I'd like to think it was the latter!

I messed about with the feeder rig, changing from lead, to groundbait feeder, to open end feeder. The results were pretty similar though - plenty of Dace. I decided to switch to a float rig for a change and to see if I could tempt a decent Perch. Earlier on Brian had spotted a Carp slurping bread off the top in the margins, but when I looked down I couldn't see a Carp. I did spot a very long Perch though - certainly a 2lb+ fish (which would be a personal best for me).

I started to catch small fish at a fair old rate close in - mostly Dace and some Bleak that were taking the bait on the drop. I then had that all too familiar feeling where a little fish turns into something bigger. I knew I had a Pike on, but I didn't know if it was hooked or just holding on to the fish. When it surfaced I could see a red maggot just on the outside of its jaw, so I knew I had a fair chance of landing it.

It was only a small fish of 3lb 6oz, but it was Pike point for me and of course a bonus point, albeit it wasn't exactly a challenging target to set!

We carried on catching bits for the rest of the day, but Brian pulled out his lure rod when we watched a Pike leap clear of the water to the left of my swim. Several casts later and he'd had nothing and was about to go back to the float fishing when he had a take close in. I went over to net it, but the fish slipped off the lure. Brian's Pike curse seemed set to continue. Defeated, he vowed to try again during the last 15 minutes of the session. I'm pleased to say he was duly rewarded for his persistance and took the Pike honours with a battle scarred fish of 4lb 8oz, which earned him the bonus.

It was a very pleasant day with us sharing somewhere in the region of 30lb of fish and suddenly this venue doesn't seem that bad after all. Hopefully it will continue to fish well through Autumn into Winter and we'll certainly be back for some proper Piking fairly soon I think.

As well as the Pike, Brian picked up points for Tench, Chub and Bleak to earn 5 points on the day. I had to settle for a sole Pike point. From nowhere, Brian has now sneaked up to just 3 points behind in the challenge. Game on!

Monday, 4 October 2010

Double Blank

Oxford Canal - Near Tusses Bridge

The title says it all, but if you were in any doubt as to how frantic the action was, a picture will do just as well:

Rip Van Jona

We had an afternoon/early evening into dusk session that consisted of a little dabble with maggots for silvers, coupled with a pop at the Zander. Both ideas failed miserably and we royally blanked. At least some sport on the radio kept me awake!

On a brighter note we've booked a couple of days on the River Wye later in the month for a spot of serious Chubbing / Barbelling (better not be Double Blanking!). Someone will probably be piking too if he finds out they go 30+!

I've already started stocking up on kit /baits, as reports suggest the fish are serious pellet munchers, while the river eats terminal tackle. I always get an air of anticipation whenever I go to a new venue - and more so if it happens to be a river. Given the pedigree of the Wye and the scenic location, the anticipation is at record levels right now. I bet it pisses down and blows a gale for those 2 days now! Fingers crossed it doesn't though.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Trout Pics (from August)

I've finally received a couple of pictures from the family outing earlier in the year.