Saturday, 5 August 2017

Unexpected Progress

A few sessions to catch up with here, kicking off with a weekend trip to the Trent with the usual crew. This was a change from the normal Wye Valley trips that we've been doing for several years now. The Wye still remains in scope for the future, but it was time for a change.

Having done a little homework beforehand, we knew certain areas to steer clear of, due to their popularity. If you haven't been to the Trent, you'll soon discover that it's very accessible. Lots of park on your peg options, both through cheap day tickets and readily available club books. Night fishing is easy to find too, which just adds to the attraction for many. The sheer volume of anglers on certain waters is something I'm just not used to seeing in my Warwickshire comfort zone.

A plan was hatched to avoid the masses. Day 1 on a tidal stretch that only allows season ticket holders to night fish, with day 2 on a club water that doesn't allow any night fishing and isn't fished from the opposite bank either.

The tidal stretch was a bit wilder than expected. Finding three pegs together was a tough one. Overnight anglers had nailed down an area on a sweeping bend at the bottom of the stretch and we eventually found an upstream area that suited us - after I'd done a spot of gardening to clear an extra peg.

Tidal rivers are alien to me and it was a little difficult to read. With high tide due mid afternoon, I was trying to wait for low tide before my feeding assault. In the end my patience ran out and I went too early. The river continued dropping for a further 3 hours!

For 25 minutes solid I repeatedly cast out a beefy 3oz feeder full of groundbait laden with pellets and caster. A good 40+ offerings in total and definitely the single biggest arm aching barrage I've ever done on a river. It was the only way to guarantee that I was feeding vaguely the right area though, in what was a deep and powerful swim.

The fishing was tough though, with no barbel or chub showing for any of us. Just a smattering of silver fish to maggot, although I had a couple of bonus fish which I'd like to think were courtesy of my heavy feeding.


Both were bream. One of 2lb 8oz and a better one of 5lb 10oz which was foul hooked. An absolute beast to land too. If you've ever foul hooked a bream before on lightish gear, you'll know that they can pack a punch. Initially I had no idea what it was, other than not a barbel. In case it was a big chub, I had to take it steadily.

Only when I got it under my feet did I see it was a slab. A real pain to land in the powerful current and every time it turned side on, it would just get washed away. The most trouble ever from a bream!

Day 2 didn't throw up much. Charlie persevered with the float and had his share of silver fish. I wasn't in the mood to battle it and spent more time on bigger baits. Just the one suspected barbel encounter that resulted in a hook pull shortly into the battle.


Brian nicked a lure caught pike at the death to win the bragging rights for biggest fish of the weekend. No prize for that though, as it wasn't part of our side bets.


Species were tied between me and Charlie on 5 each, so that now rolls over to next time. Perhaps a shade unlucky though, as he actually hooked two others. The only problem being that one (pike) attacked the other (bootlace eel) on the retrieve and bit him off!

I took the bream pot, with the chub and barbel pots also rolling over to the Autumn instalment. Although it wasn't productive this time, I think we learned a lot and the potential for very big fish is plain to see. We'll all be better prepared next time.

Back locally and with a week off work, I had to revise Monday's plan due to a sore eye. Eventually I settled for a couple of hours on the canal late afternoon, but it wasn't easy. Just a few small roach and skimmers.

Next up I headed back to the Anker to see if I could improve on my bream tally. Three people there on arrival and that quickly ruled out my first and second choice pegs. Turning to the third choice I gave it the usual positive helping of groundbait across both margins. A float fished bunch of maggots would be the tactic.


Cutting to the chase, after almost 5 hours I was biteless. With boredom setting in, I decided on a 2pm cut off, so I could get home and at least do something productive with the day.

1-40pm and the float finally starts to dance. A tentative bite and I wasn't going to risk rushing it. Finally it dipped under and I hit it. A good bend in the rod suggested it might be a bream, but then it started jagging a little. A big perch at last I thought, but then it went jag, jag, jag in a way that can only mean one thing...

Eel - and a decent one too. A fact I know, because I voluntarily began supplying commentary to anyone who might be within listening range. Not my normal style unless I know those around me, but it was just spontaneous excitement.

The old guy from a peg upstream was equally surprised though, claiming it to be "the biggest ****ing eel I've ever seen!". He helped with the netting and I was glad of the assistance.

With a pb of 1lb 9oz, that was easily about to be eclipsed. 3lb 5oz was the verdict. It's not going to set the eel world alight, but it's a special catch for me. Still no match though for the canal caught leviathon that George Burton caught in the last blogger's challenge. Just feels weird when it scores less than a chub of the same size, which are infinitely easier to find. There's no justice!



Must fnd a better photographer next time!

I called it a day there and then, figuring I wasn't going to top that.

Next up was a day where I was given free licence. My wife was working from home and she wanted me out of the way to avoid distractions. That's a brief I can happily work to.

Making her feel a little guilty due to throwing me at the mercy of the wind and rain, I bid her farewell and set off with a double ration of food and drink supplies. We didn't rendezvous again until 14 hours later. I take my duty to vacate the premises seriously!

It proved to be an odd and enjoyable day. I'd planned to split the day in two, meeting up with Charlie early afternoon to show him a different stretch. As it happened, I got settled in my first area and spent the day there.


After catching plenty of perch on the stick float, along with the odd skimmer, dace and roach, I decided to put out a sleeper rod for carp. I'd seen a low double taken from the area last year and it made sense to increase my options.

10 minutes later and the sleeper rod was off - freespool reel doing its job perfectly. The problem was that it wasn't the intended carp, but a barbel with a preference for slack water. An immensely powerful fight followed, but I eventually won out. A fish of 7lb 10oz. I gave it plenty of time in the net before doing anything and it recovered fine.


Second cast with the sleeper and the outcome was almost identical. A brief wait saw another barbel in the net. 7lb 9oz this time, but a less fierce fight.


Third cast saw another bite. Eel! It couldn't last could it? Charlie had turned up by now, although his navigational skills had failed him slightly. A missed gate saw him doing a spot of orienteering and ditch wading to reach my peg.

Things slowed down considerably over the next few hours, but Charlie had taken a couple of chub to 3lb 11oz and lost a barbel that nearly cost him his rod too.

We agreed on an 8-45 finish and it was closing in on that as I began to retire my float rod. The meat rod screamed into action again and another intense battle kicked off. A hard but incident free encounter saw me bank the best barbel of the session at 9lb 2oz.


It's certainly taught me a lesson. Of all the pegs available, it's one that I would have put towards the bottom of my list in terms of barbel potential. There are many other reliable well known pegs that consistently produce.

It may have been pure luck on this occasion, but maybe there's some logic to be found. The fish must patrol through the area from time to time and maybe they were caught off guard by someone targeting them in an unfashionable peg? The fact I was targeting carp is something I'll conveniently overlook. You can't beat a bit of luck?!

Sunday, 23 July 2017

The Story So Far

A barren period in terms of posts from me and not unlike much of my fishing.

Rewind back to the start of the season and my customary week off work coincided with some stinking hot weather. With low and clear rivers, coupled with working around wife related drop off / pick ups, it made for me hitting the bank in less than ideal conditions.

Four different rivers were tackled in that week. The Stour (Warks) kicked it off on the 16th. Wanting to avoid the masses, I opted for this small, but often deceptive, waterway. It's now back on limits to me due to an extra ticket this year.

I had the three meadows to myself on arrival and only met one other angler all day. Just what I wanted for a gentle season opener. Plenty of fish around, but all small. A couple of chub up to 12oz were the only fish to get the landing net wet. I'll be back later in the season and given the good head of prey fish, I think some of the many deep holes will have to be explored for pike.

The attraction of quality bream on the Anker lured me in for a couple of days. A bad mistake in the conditions though and I bombed out miserably. A complete blank one day and just a few small fish the next, along with a pound perch.

A day exploring above and below an Avon weirpool yielded more small fish - mostly perch. A bonus ruffe popped in an appearance though, which ticked off a target for the Blogger's Challenge. At 1.35oz it's hardly a specimen, but in terms of points it's similar to a pound roach. Doesn't seem quite so silly when you look at it like that!



Fishing that day with Brian, we cooked up a plan there and then for the following day. A long overdue trip to check out the Trent for a future jolly, was given the green light.

The stretch we headed for was an easy access one that I'd found on the internet. What I didn't bargain for was the sheer popularity of the place. Utterly rammed! I saw more people fishing in one day than I have sometimes seen in an entire season!

A world far removed from the one I normally operate in. Just finding a couple of spare pegs together on a one mile stretch was pretty tricky. With no fancy rod pod / alarms and only licenced for 2 rods, I was clearly an under-gunned outsider here.

Slim pickings on the fishing too, but I quite enjoyed the challenge of the big river. Just a dozen or so small fish, but expectations were low given the conditions and available time. The key was to get as much information about the area as possible. Hotel, pub and food outlets all checked out!



It's pretty clear we'll fish elsewhere next time. When the bailiff advises you to turn up on Thursday to secure weekend pegs, I know it's not for me!

A couple of other Avon trips produced just small fish and pike were proving a pain. I suffered a bite off before managing to land a small jack one evening. On release it regurgitated a small and now deceased dace. The casualty was scooped up and now resides in my garage freezer, destined to find its way back into a bigger predator's jaws come Autumn.

A couple of very short opportune evening trips targeting barbel, threw up the odd chub to just over 3lb, along with an obligatory meat loving eel. Just one whisker related encounter and I came off second best to a snag on that occasion.

Two consecutive weekends were wiped out by a holiday, which brings me right up to this weekend. Itching to get out and lacking in drinking buddies, put Saturday afternoon / evening in the frame. Plenty of rain forecast, but with recent extra water in the systems, I still fancied it.

I opted for the Anker for ease of access and was pleased to find the place empty. Bagging my preferred peg I gave it my standard approach for the bream. Ten balls of groundbait laden with hemp and molasses, split between right and left hand margins into 9.5ft of water (was 8ft on last visit!).

Tactics were float fished maggots (4 on a size 12 to 3lb) just tripping the very weedy bottom about 10ft out. The large hook and bait seems to help avoid the plentiful small roach, but the first taker was just that - lucky too, as a pike nearly nailed it!

Next up about an hour in, it wasn't a roach though and I was connected to the intended target. A bland fight saw a quick surrender and I'd got a good challenge points scorer in the net. I thought 7lb and was pretty damn close at 6lb 15oz.



Bites were infrequent, but by continually switching lines from right to left margin. I banked the odd one here and there. Most notable were a perch of 1lb 6oz which was quickly followed by a real scrapper that I thought was a certain two pounder. It was just shy at 1lb 15oz. More good points though.



Rain blighted the entire session with no letting up at any time. Bites petered out too and I began breaking things down as the darkness started to set in. With everything but umbrella and landing net packed away I had one last chuck.

Switching to the left margin, I could barely see the float tip. Then within seconds, I really couldn't see the tip. A flick of the rod and I was carefully playing another decent slab. A bit more fight in this one, but it rolled nicely into the net first time.

Certainly bigger than the earlier one, I dared to think it might make 8lb. My worst guess of the night though, as it fell short at 7lb 8oz.



It was nice to finally get something right, in what has been a pretty quiet start to my season. Lots of time left though and plenty more fish to target.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Clouds​ With Silver Linings​

Back to the canal to search out some early​ points to kick-start my Blogger's Challenge campaign. With the rivers out of action it gives me a good excuse to sample waters I wouldn't normally get out of bed for. That's not to decry them - it's just horses for courses really.

This is often the fun part of the challenge for me, where points can flow freely and I target anything and everything. Armed with a couple of straight lead rods, a helping of groundbait and half a pint of red maggots, this was a simple catch all session.


I kicked off with both rods, but in the end I had to scale back to just one. Bites were proving hard to hit and I felt one rod fished with full attention was better than trying to juggle my focus across two.


It proved to be a steady session, mainly built around skimmers of just over a pound. I only​ managed one fish north of two pounds - 2lb 8oz being the best of the bunch.


The stand out fish was a silver bream of 14oz. A personal best and a few tidy points for that.



Although generally a laid back character, I still have a competitive instinct lurking within - even when pleasure fishing. Totting up the weight as I went along, I'd got myself to 8lb 8.5oz. Time was nearly up, so I gave myself an extra half hour to reach double figures.

I thought I'd cracked it when I hooked another skimmer, but it only saw me up to 9lb 12.5oz.  Beyond time, I gave myself a last cast to get the job done.

Anyway several last casts later and deep into overtime, the tip rattled and I was in. Bloody typical though - a tiny perch of 2.5oz to take me to a tantalising 9lb 15oz. I graciously called it a day and figured it wasn't meant to be.

More canal points in four hours though than I earned in the whole of the last challenge. Moreover, quite enjoyable canal sport again.

Sometimes opportunity knocks and you have to grab it. Quite often it's these unplanned spur of the moment decisions that deliver special moments.

I was due in hospital for a spot of day surgery, which was also set to knock out any hope of weekend fishing or alcohol consumption! To cut to the chase, it got called off at the last moment and my mind was quickly working out how to salvage some fishing out of it.

My wife was due at the gym that evening and I hatched a plan to get a lift to the canal. I'd only have about 1.25 hours of actual fishing, but that was 1.25 more than I'd have had normally. With just a handful of maggots and a small offering of groundbait, I headed off with a single rod.

Tactics were the same as previously and it took nearly half an hour to bank a bog standard pound skimmer. Rain was now setting in and I had no brolly for this whistle stop session. I donned the waterproofs, gritted my teeth and figured it would soon be time to go. Sanity was being questioned!

And then it all came together. Out of adversity came 30 minutes of manic fishing that left me gobsmacked. Bites flowed easily as the fish presumably settled over the bait. A few skimmers, a tiny tench, a roach / bream hybrid and a pb nudging silver bream of 13.5oz, came in quick succession.



With time running short I entered last bite territory. Sopping wet, I struck into a fish and my heart started racing. A big roach I thought, but those hopes were dashed by something equally appealing. It was a huge silver bream that looked close to two pounds.

I double checked it across both the Avons and a digital scale and both confirmed 1lb 14oz. A massive pb for me and in terms of percentage of British record, my best ever catch by a mile. The Avon scales in the photo below are 6.25 inches long,



Sadly, little hope of any great photos in the wet and gloomy conditions, but one that will live long in my memory. I've done some identification checks (along with a second opinion) and it seems to stack up. If anyone spots any doubts, please share them though. I don't want to lay claim to anything dubious.

Attention will briefly turn to stillwater soon, but with bank work to do on the river and the obvious lure of the canal, it might just have to wait a while longer.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

False Start

A three week lay off gave me a chance to catch up on some long overdue garden improvements, interspersed with some fishing chores. Reels loaded up, rods tidied, tackle jacket washed, replenished and smelling a whole lot better! Ready for action and the start of the 2017/18 Blogger's Challenge.

The challenge (which encompasses river/drain, canal and stillwater targets) is a welcome diversion at this point of the year. In recent times, Spring has seen me fall into state of self-imposed exile. Rivers are pretty much it for me, so for 3 months of the year my motivation to fish is largely dead in the water.

The challenge promises to alter the mindset a little though and I recently found myself back down the cut to check out the potential points it might offer.

Having had two double figure bags from it in previous sessions, I was optimistic of repeating the feat again. I should come clean and say that double figures wasn't pounds - it was fish caught! Exactly ten each time!


A session spent alternating between pole and wand. The latter, a Shakespeare Mach XT, had been rediscovered in my tackle tidying exercise. It was great to have it in action again. All too much of my legering is done with heavy gear down the river, so a far lighter touch felt like a different and pleasing change to me.


Sadly no repeat, with a measly seven fish caught on this trip. However, a 12oz roach and a couple scraping half a pound made me think that better redfins might not be far away. I'd return a day later.

With wand in hand I went in search of better quality fish. A sympathetic balling in of groundbait kick-started proceedings while I added a second lead rod to the attack. 

First cast saw the tip fly around while I was tying up a rig for the second rod. A nice roach/bream hybrid of 1lb 10oz got me off to a brisk start. 


The next action is where the love of the wand wore off briefly. A strike met by a solid thump and I thought I'd hooked the bottom. Then it kicked and I realised my 2.5lb hook length and slender, delicate rod were about to be a tad under-gunned.

With mindless optimism I settled in for a long battle, fearing the the inevitable snagging. It didn't come to that though, as the hook pulled and left me with a souvenir of the culprit.


Knowing it was foul hooked gave some vindication and valuable evidence for future trips. Having never caught a canal carp, it's something I fancy doing before the river season kicks off. Bizarrely I had a second carp foul hooking episode later in this session with an identical hook pull outcome.

The rest of this 3.5 hour session saw me connecting with mainly bream. Five of them up to 3lb 12oz saw me genuinely pass the double figure weight mark. Most fell to double red maggot, but the largest was taken on corn.


Just one roach though, but another small step in the right direction at 14oz.


All of the above don't count for the blogger's challenge though, as it was a day before the off. Good knowledge gained though, but at a price. My recently purchased landing net handle somehow didn't make it back to my car. I only found out the next day, by which time the damage was done. That's one smashed and another lost in the space of a month at the same location. This canal lark is proving costly!

With some riverbank maintainence work to attend to soon, it might be a while longer before I get back to the canal. Although I am cooking up some ideas to combine fitness and fishing, which might provide a few extra opportune moments. I've threatened that in the past though and it didn't materialise, so don't hold me to it!

Monday, 1 May 2017

Blogger's Challenge 2017/18 Gallery

Points scoring fish for the 2017/18 Blogger's Challenge will be shown here:

River

Barbel

9lb 2oz

Eel

3lb 5oz


Bream

7lb 8oz

Dace

3.2oz

Chub

3lb 2oz

Ruffe


1.35oz

Perch 

1lb 15oz

Canal

Common Bream

2lb 8oz
Silver Bream

1lb 14oz - pb
Perch

2.5oz!
Roach/Bream Hybrid

4oz
Tench

5oz

Stillwater

Roach

1lb 3oz
Perch

8.5oz

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Breaking Bad

A combination of weather too good to resist, coupled with enforced Saturday night sobriety, was responsible for an early return to action. Just a brief session though.

Back to lock horns with a stretch of canal that I took quite a fancy to last closed season. Now I'm not big on canals, but with the bloggers' challenge less than a month away, a couple of hours of cut fishing seemed like a good opportunity to check out the point scoring potential.

With a freshly elasticated cheap pole in hand, I set out to catch anything. A few maggots and a liberal helping breadcrumb mixed with molasses would form the attack. Half a golf ball of crumb every other put in.


After a slow start, the fish seemed to respond to the feed. I didn't exactly bag up, but the idea was to get a bit of confidence before returning another day with bigger plans in mind.

A silver bream showed up first. Always nice to see them, even if it was only a shade over 2 ounces - 2.3 to be more precise! Yes I've dabbled in some digital scales for the smaller species in the upcoming challenge. A field test seemed like a good idea.


I had a few small roach and perch and something that looked a little more rudd-like with upturned lip, but probably a hybrid.


The best fish was a fat bodied perch of 1lb 2oz. Possibly a canal pb for me, as I rarely fish the cut and I can't recall anything bigger from my childhood days (when I had no scales anyway!).


An enjoyable session and with a return in mind, I even began to tidy up the swim of some annoying foliage. Bad move. In my haste to get it cleared I dropped my guard, or rather, my landing net pole, in the wrong place.

Cue that horrible splintering sound which you hope is a stick, but experience tells you it's a bit of your kit. I haven't done it for many a year, but it still gets no better.

It wasn't a bog standard net handle either. It was a rare piece of indulgence on my part, bought for its unusual compact design. Let's just say its current size is even more compact! I'll consign it to storage, pending a solution. An alternative will have to do for now.

More closed season canal adventures to follow for sure. Hopefully they won't prove to be as costly.


Saturday, 18 March 2017

One Last Fling

A quiet end to the season with me ducking out of the last two weekends. The first was weather related, but the latter was in the knowledge that I had a day off work to compensate for it.

Joined by two accomplices we headed off for one last crack at the Avon. They were super keen - up at the crack of dawn - while I arrived nearer to 8am, having dispatched my wife to work en route. Always a pleasure provide that service on my way to a day of leisure! 

The usual car park encounter ensued. You know the score by now!


A squelch across the meadow and I caught up on the action. Nothing doing. A missed bite apparently, but nothing else. Contemplating where to start I looked around to see Brian clutching a heavily bent over rod, that was nearly pulled clean in. Sadly the hook pulled and the culprit was never seen. Cause for optimism though.

I settled in on the next peg downstream. Meat on one rod, coarse deadbait on the other in the hope of a zander. It was tough going on the meat - nothing in fact. The deadbait fooled an early jack though. A second take resulted in a lost fish that looked Zed like, but not particularly big. Then it went quiet.

I decided​ to relocate to the opposite end of my peg and go all out for zander. As I didn't have a spare predator rod, I tried something a little different - swingtipping for them. The low resistance offered by the tip seemed like a plausible idea. 


Two missed bites on the float set up and then one on the tip, threatened to turn the air blue. Fourth time lucky I bagged what was to be my final fish of the season. Not the zander I hoped for, but the same distinctive jack I'd had earlier! 


Now I've had my share of repeat captures over the years, but rarely in the same session. Oddly enough, it happened to me on the last day of the season last year though, with a Windrush brownie. 

A sedate end to the season and I probably could have done better with a little more mobility in my approach. With pleasant, mild and often sunny conditions, I was just in the mood to relax. I'd done my share of legwork for the season. 

Some days are just for taking whatever comes and for being thankful of a day away from the humdrum of the office. And sometimes, it's those around you who actually put the biggest smile on your face.

Brian had resigned himself to another blank, when another rod lunging incident saw him battling a lump. All suspects were put in the frame during the battle, until a carp eventually broke cover. Played patiently, the prize reluctantly graced his net after a stubborn fight. Believed to be his first river carp and a double to boot - 11lb 1oz. Well done sir.


Charlie had the last of the action with his first barbel from the stretch at 8lb 12oz. A nice way to sign off.


A strange old season for me. More personal bests than I've had before, but sandwiched between a lot of tricky times. I spent too much time flogging the same stretch in unfavourable conditions. That's often the case when you're presented with something new. I'll be looking for more variety next season during those tricky summer periods when the rivers are running low and clear.

Zander have intrigued me though and that's probably the biggest plus point from the season. I have my mind set on catching a double now and I have enough options to think it could be a reality for next season.

I'm now planning on a break for a few weeks to get some work done around the house and garden. I might sneak in the odd session though if the weather is particularly good. I have a pond to check out and I'll also be taking another look at a stretch of canal that I briefly dabbled with last closed season. Bank maintenance on one of the river stretches also needs fitting in. 

I'll return properly during May, by which time the blogger's challenge for 2017/18 will be in progress. That's a great excuse to put some much needed variety back into my fishing. I really must get back to using a float more often again.

Decisions on tickets are getting ever closer. Three river based ones are a formality (one already bagged due to a January renewal date), but the last one (or two) keeps changing in my mind. For once, it's the stillwaters that are complicating matters. I'll figure it soon enough.

Roll on 12 weeks' time...