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. 

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Summer Catch Up

It's good to be back in the land of blog again after a challenging period for me. My focus changed a few months ago when i strolled into my local hospital for what I hoped would be a routine referral. I left with my tail between my legs, with a concerned consultant insisting I needed swift surgery. A double whammy too, as I was off work at the time purely to do some fishing!

Taking his advice, the next day's fishing was cancelled in favour of a biopsy on my right wrist. Not part of my early season plans, but well worth it as it turned out. Three weeks later I returned to hospital to discover that the bit they removed from me was cancerous - a malignant melanoma. A nasty life changing little bugger if left to spread.

The good news was that it appeared to be isolated and hadn't spread to the parts of the body I really didn't want it to reach. More surgery was ordered on my wrist, just to be absolutely sure nothing was still lurking.

I'm pleased to say that the results of the second operation came back all clear. A massive relief. I have follow ups for a year and a lifetime on heightened alert, but that's no bad thing though. It's been a real wake up call and I'm so glad I acted when I did.

The cancer was contained in a mole that had begun to grow in size, the extent of which I could clearly see from old fishing photos going back to 2010.

If you're prone to moles (I have loads!) do yourself a favour and read about their warning signs on the NHS website.

Understandably my fishing was curtailed a little, but I've had my share of sessions. Results have been varied during a period which has seen the rivers running low and clear. Barbel and chub have been hard to come by for me. Rather than struggle on in pursuit of them, after a few miserable failed sessions I took the hint and decided to try for other target species. 

A session on the Anker saw me taking a thorough battering from the pike. I tried three different swims and had them queuing up each time to take fish on the way in or way out. At one point I had two sat right in front of me, waiting for me to supply their next free meal! I quit early.

Back on the Avon I searched out some new deep water to trial. I was hoping to find some bream, but mainly caught small perch. It all changed when the float buried and as I struck into it, line began to peel off the reel. Before I knew it the fish was snagged in far bank lilies. 

Using only a 3lb bottom I couldn't go mad, but I cranked up the pressure and managed to coax it out. It then kited back across the river and snagged again in near bank lilies! More careful pressure saw it eventually freed again and I could see it was a carp. I quickly got top side of it and banked myself only my fourth ever river carp. At bang on 8lb it was actually my best from a river and a decent looker too. Not quite my double figure target, but heading in the right direction - if a little lucky!

Next session I went back to see if I could find a bigger sample, but bombed out miserably. With a few minutes to spare after I'd packed up I took a walk upstream. Just a few pegs from where I was fishing I found myself staring at huge shoal of grazing bream. Maybe 300lbs of them split across 2 pegs. Just taunting me! The picture only captured part of the shoal.

I've also been down to Somerset to sample life on the levels. Plenty of fish around as ever, although two of the three sessions (on the King's Sedgemoor Drain) didn't yield much by way of quality. The most notable fish was an 8oz silver bream - a personal best as it happens.

Accompanied by a hound belonging to other family members, we struck up a good rapport. He would sit patiently as long as the rod was horizontal. Any movement of the rod and he would spring into action, offering to land (or more likely eat!) every fish. No fish were harmed, but I had to be on my guard.

The final session saw me battling a strong wind on the River Huntspill. I'd decided to go for quality and fished sweetcorn over a bed of groundbait. For once, things largely went to plan. I had four bream between 4lb 4oz and 5lb 1oz and lost three others to snags /  hook pulls. Several nice rudd and roach to around half a pound also showed in a bag of around 30lb.

The icing on the cake was a surprise hybrid. Not that hybrids are uncommon on this venue, but this was the biggest I'd ever caught at 4lb 2oz.

Back locally, a mixed dabble for tench and zander proved fruitless. Just a jack instead of a zed and something substantial that wasn't likely to be a tench. Best guess is a carp or barbel, but I'll never know, as it beat me up good and proper. All useful knowledge though for when I return more tooled up.

A switch to the Anker in search of tench didn't work either. Well, that's not fully true.  No tinca, but it did throw up a couple of slabs and the biggest was a target achieving pb of 8lb 2oz. Clumsily I managed to delete the photo though during a space saving cull!

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%
Tench and Pike - 0%
Total - 403.02 (Target 700)

I've been trying my best to get a tench of any size on the board during these warmer months. It hasn't happened though and is probably unlikely now, as I start to shift my focus in the coming weeks. Without a tench, the challenge is largely dead in the water.

So, to keep things fresh I'm changing it. My game, my rules! I'm going to allow myself one substitute. Tench out, zander in and I'm sticking with the 6lb target. I've only ever caught a handful of very small zander in my life and none by design. Hopefully I can change that and get close to the target.

Now, a little mention to a product that caught my eye in a TV advert recently. It's a magazine based product called Readly. For a monthly subscription of £7.99 you have access to hundreds of online versions of various magazines, including lots of back issues.

The beauty is that there's no long term commitment and you can cancel any time. There's no limit on how much you can download either. You can even use up to 5 devices, so other family members can join in at no extra cost. There's even some sign up deals to get you on board cheaply for a couple of months.

It clearly doesn't cover everything you might want, but for coarse fishermen Angling Times, Angler's Mail and Improve Your Coarse Fishing are available. The normal cost of these alone is around £20 a month. There's other fishing titles available covering other branches of the sport.

The added bonus for me is that it allows me full access to titles I'd never consider buying. I like my cricket for example, but not enough to go buying magazines about it. That's all changed now that I can access them whenever I fancy it.

It also means my lunchtimes at work no longer centre around reading a newspaper full of its own political agendas. Instead it leads me to search out content that's more meaningful or will broaden my horizons. I was amazed at how little The Beano has changed since I was a kid!

That's enough for now. Next up I'll report on my recent Wye trip and a session that saw me dredging up a method consigned to the bin many years ago.