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...

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Seeking Redemption

Last week's mishap left a bitter taste in the mouth. There was little doubt in my mind that I had to attempt to seek some form of redemption on my next outing. 

Tactics would be similar, but I wanted less distractions. The second rod was banished from the quiver, leaving just my 10ft Shakespeare Sigma Specialist as the lone option. I bought this rod a couple of years ago, purely because it has a threaded top section to take a swing tip. 

I briefly dabbled with the swing tip in the summer, but it struck me that the rod might be quite suited to barbel or chub fishing. Bites aren't usually delicate, so I figured that the rod tip would be fine on its own. No need for a more delicate quiver tip really.

I contemplated painting the tip, but I decided to try out some luminous tape instead. Secured in place with a bit of whipping and a layer of yacht varnish, it does the job nicely. Should come in useful for those evening sessions.

By day

By night

I've since bought a second of these rods when I spotted a great deal on eBay recently. I have some other (crackpot?!) ideas for expanding its uses. More to follow on that in due course, but for now this cheap little rod is proving more versatile than I originally expected.

Back to this week's fishing and the rig was once again a simple running leger. Luncheon meat cubes about one inch in size were fished on a short hair. Most of the hook was embedded in the meat, which had the corners roughly shaved off to give a more rugged appearance.

Another lazy midday start. I prepped the swim with a few handfuls of groundbait. It was mainly liquidised bread, but with a bit of added meat. Three hours later and it was looking bleak. Just a couple of taps on the tip to show for my efforts. An obligatory eel, perfectly lip hooked for once, was all I'd banked.

With the wind blowing and rain threatening I decided to call it off at 4pm if prospects didn't pick up. An extension was called for though, when I had a proper pull on the rod tip in the last half hour. I didn't connect, but it gave me renewed confidence. An hour's extra time was ordered and I'd have to put up with a spot of rain.

Shortly after 4pm I got the indication I'd been waiting for. A proper tug on the tip and line was soon peeling off the reel as the fish made a powerful downstream run. Once I'd managed to apply the brakes and turn it, the rest of the battle went without incident. No mysterious snags this time! 

I thought on length alone that it was a scraper double, but when I placed it on the mat for unhooking, it was a very deep bodied fish.

The Avons returned a verdict of 11lb 13oz. A new PB and last week's failure firmly put to bed.

 A few extra points for my challenge scorecard, which now reads:

Barbel (11lb 13oz - Warks Avon) - 118.13% of target - pb
Bream (8lb 2oz - Anker) - 101.36% - pb
Zander (6lb 0oz  - Warks Avon) - 100% -pb
Pike (19lb 3oz - Warks Avon) - 95.94%
Chub (4lb 3oz - Warks Avon) - 83.75%
Carp (8lb 0oz - Warks Avon) - 80% - river pb
Perch (1lb 6oz - Anker) - 45.83%
Total - 625.21 (Target 700)

That's now nine personal bests from rivers this year (zander x4, barbel x2, bream x2, roach/bream hybrid). Three weeks to hopefully push it into double figures...

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Full Circle

It's taken me a few weeks to get around to tapping out another blog post. Time on the bank has been limited and action has been anything but frantic. I've managed four sessions in that period. Some rather chilly and wet, but it has turned a whole lot milder and more promising recently.

Predator fishing was the order of the day for the first two sessions. A couple of jacks was all I managed in the first outing though, despite plenty of endeavour. 

I did connect with a couple of small zander on the next brief visit, but both slipped the hook. Some promised persistent rain curtailed the session. I can take my share of the wet stuff but not when it's freezing and the fishing is dire. Starting some decorating made better sense!

Next up was a session with a cool north-easterly breeze, but the river had received some extra water earlier that week. Crucially it emanated from a brief milder spell and I quite fancied my chances of a few fish.

The pike were conspicuous by their absence. Not a sniff for me, so that was 50% of my attack nullified. The other rod managed a few roach and a couple of bream to save the day.

And then there was more decorating! My window of opportunity the following week coincided with more poor weather. Reluctantly I took the sensible option and started attacking the last of the remaining wood-chip. Thrilling!

On to this week and things looked distinctly bang on. A healthy, almost unseasonal, temperature and the river was dropping nicely following a good rise earlier in the week. Pike gear banished. Barbel / chub gear out!

I headed back to the peg where I started the season. I just felt confident it would deliver, although in fairness I think that optimism could have applied to any number of other pegs too. It was a lazy start just beyond midday.

I've consciously gone back to basics with my approach to barbel and chub. Still the same running leger rig that dominates most of my on the deck attack, but using large chunks of luncheon meat rather than boilies or pellets. I've also shortened the hair.

First cast and I took the opportunity for a quick photo with the rod tip as the focus. With camera in hand there was a sharp tap on the tip. Then it banged round and the freespool kicked in. Just a small chub though.

Next up was the main event around an hour later. A solid bite and very stout resistance. The initial run was powerful and I had to concede plenty of ground. Luckily the fish stayed clear of a downstream snag and I began to gain control gradually and patiently.

Another five minutes or so of give and take and I assumed full control. With the fish now directly in front and in clear water, I got the net ready. One more powerful run was stemmed and the prize was there to be grabbed...

Then it went solid. Just like being attached to a parked car. From nowhere it managed to find a snag that I didn't know was there. A fair and honest fight (that I was about to win!) had suddenly turned dirty! 

We parted company and I was left gutted. It was certainly a pb shaker and maybe something even more special. Certainly the toughest battling fish I've been attached to all season. 

A series of odd unhittable bites followed, but the slimy perpetrator slipped up eventually.

Two further chub completed the day. The last one being the best of the bunch at 4lb 1oz and a degree of consolation.

No progress towards my river challenge scorecard and I can't seem to get past low 4s with the chub. Time is running short, but I'm feeling more positive for the last few weeks of the campaign now.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Knocking on the Door

Last week's year opening session proved to be a bit of a non event, although I did my best to make it eventful before I'd even arrived bankside.

Pulling into the parking area, I figured momentum would overcome the muddy mess at the entrance. I was right too as I glided through it with ease and sized up my spot at the end. Then, I inexplicably ignored the bleeding obvious and allowed the car to drift off the sloped hardcore and down to a low point. Not just low though, but very boggy!

After five minutes of expletive filled, gear shifting, wheel turning, mud flying, rocking and rolling, I managed to wrestle the car back to a sensible position. Job done, but at the cost of a plastered up car in big need of a clean!

The fishing yielded just a single chub, a shade under 3lbs. It came first chuck to meat and I thought a good day was in prospect. Nothing for the next 3 hours though and I took an early bath.

This week I was hoping we might have a bit of snow lingering, but it didn't quite drop right. It wasn't as cold as I expected either. A short morning pike session was the order of the day.

Standard tactics of working the margins for 30-45 minutes per swim with two deadbait rods. I'd also broken out the proper gear. Rods switched over to braid setups, coupled with the best of my stash of deadbait - some large smelt and sardine.

Swim one produced just a single jack as I was on the cusp of making a move.

It didn't alter my plan though and I hopped a peg upstream. Nothing doing though, apart from scrounging robins. Two more moves downstream gave similar outcomes. With rain now falling. I began to start writing it off. I'd even buggered up a rod through a self-inflicted tangle and decided to retire it for the day.

With an eye on the clock I figured on one last move back to the peg I'd started with. I engaged the free spool setting on the reel and began shuttling gear to my final destination, just a few yards away.

With two short trips completed I returned to remove the rod, but with perfect timing the float started pulling away. A strike and a heavy fish was on, peeling line off the reel and heading for a big snag that has been my nemesis in the past.

I had to crank up the pressure and hope it would turn. And it did - just in the nick of time. The fight was tense. Braid is great for making contact with the fish, but the lack of stretch makes for interesting fights. I took it as delicately as I could. Thankfully I netted it first time, as only one set of trebles were holding.

Once I'd unhooked and rested it, a quick call to a willing photographer upstream, helped me with the essentials. Not the longest of fish, but certainly well fed and a new one to me. It went 19lb 2oz on the Avons. Not quite the twenty pound target, but knocking on the door.

Thanks to Martin again for the photos. It's becoming a pleasant habit!

Once again, it demonstrates the fine line between success and failure. If I hadn't given it that extra couple of minutes while moving swims, things would have been a whole lot different. Perseverance, stubbornness or luck? The truth lies somewhere in between I guess.

With the season now pushing towards it's final phase, I'm hoping to put a few longer sessions in soon. Still a few targets to try and nail down. Let's hope the weather stays kind, as it has for most of the season so far.