Sunday, 24 November 2013

Faith Repaid

A week is a long time in politics so they say, but it's also a long time when you're stuck at work itching to get down the river! This week saw me having to wait until Sunday to wet a line, as I had various things to sort out beforehand. I even had to give my Saturday night fill of ale a miss, as I wanted to get some jobs finished off. Sunday was going to be for fishing only.

All week I've been tossing bait ideas around in my mind, particularly with perch in mind. The fruit of my thoughts saw me marinating some prawns in the worm oil I've recently been using - the result being some very brightly coloured and heavily scented king prawns! I also topped up my deadbait stock from the tackle shop and included some tiny bream that I hoped the perch might take a liking to. A few Sardines were also acquired from Morrisons - they also got the worm oil treatment prior to freezing. Add to that a few roach and some smelt and I had a bit of variety.

The last part of the equation was a healthy bucket of groundbait / liquidised bread, loaded with the left over maggots from last week and with a healthy dollop of liquid mollasses. The plan was to use the groundbait to draw in the prey fish across a couple of swims.

The weather wasn't anywhere near as cold as it had been in recent mornings - it was 4C when I set off at 6-50am. The river was in excellent shape and was holding a nice colour. Fish were topping on my arrival, which is always a welcome sign. The groundbait went in as planned and I set about settling into my first peg.

It wasn't a quick start by any means and the first hour drew a blank. Well, when I say a blank, I did hook into one fish (a jack) which saw the hooks failing to stay in place. A move to my other baited peg didn't go to plan either - another lost jack and another hour gone. Back to the original peg and I finally put a jack on the bank, courtesy of a smelt deadbait.

I like to keep mobile when I'm pike fishing and with no-one else on the river, it's not really a problem to keep hopping between swims. My next move saw me fish a swim that I hadn't baited up, but I wasn't exactly bagging up so I gave it a shot. I often give it a miss as it's a bit tight for fishing two rods.

I had a take after about 5 minutes on my lone rod and it was a much better fish - a low double for sure. I battled with it for a while until that horrible moment when you see the bait rise up through the water and the fish slips away. With three fish lost and just one jack banked, the air was starting to turn blue!

I persisted in the same swim and reached for the big gun - well a big chunk of sardine. I increased my fish count with it, but only another jack of around 5lb.

Time to move again and a complete blank on my next stop off saw me heading into last chance saloon for a third and final crack at my original starting peg. For the first time all day I had a couple of decent bites where I struck and felt absolutely nothing. Maybe it was perch or something else messing with the bait, so with that in mind I scaled down my my other rig (a single hook rig) with a smaller bait, while continuing with a roach on the other one.

The next take on the roach was another typical bite, but the result was quite different. The fish stayed low and it felt very powerful. As luck would have it, I've just this week scaled up my pike tackle to a couple of new 10ft rods with a bit of backbone - a lot more beefy than the telescopic rods I've often used in the past for convenience.

The fish eventually surfaced and it looked big. The first attempt to land it saw it half in the net, before it powered off. The second attempt ended up the same and by now my heart was in my mouth because I knew I was staring at a personal best. Surely this one wouldn't give me the slip too? Attempt three didn't look like it was going to work either but somehow I got it into the net and I just sunk to my knees on the landing stage, staring down at the net.

If anyone had seen me at that moment they would probably have assumed I was about to end it all by chucking myself in the river, but far from it. I've never been so relieved to see a fish go into a net. I gave it a couple of minutes rest while I arranged my unhooking gear and camera. It was only when I lifted it clear of the water that I realised just how big it was. It had a fair old belly on it.

I reached for the back up scales because it seemed obvious that my 20lb digital set would be short of the mark. As suspected, they bottomed out, so it was over to the 30lb dial set. The final weight I settled for was 21lb 5oz - a personal best by well over 5lbs.

A shot on the mat (which in 38 inches long) shows off its portly belly.

I didn't bother with any more fishing after that. I was more than happy just to sit and drink another coffee, reflecting on the mission accomplished. I've persevered with river piking after giving it a proper go for the first time around 4 years ago. Prior to that I'd dabbled with lures in the summer months whenever I got pestered with pike, but it was only when a friend (Brian) decided to try piking with deadbaits, that I showed some real interest.

Our first attempt saw him catch a couple of fish of 7lb and 9lb, while I blanked. It opened my eyes though and it's one of the best decisions I made. Pike fishing has totally grabbed me since that first outing and it's fast become my favourite branch of the sport. An Avon twenty is the icing on the cake for me.

Next week might see me having an enforced lay off, but there's a half chance I'll get out for a short session on a more local water. If it happens, I'll be totally out of my comfort zone chasing zander for a change. It's a species I've shown no real interest in before and have rarely caught. That means more research required again this week, but I know there's plenty been written about zeds by local bloggers, so I'll use their wisdom to educate me.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Predator Time

I'll begin by clearing up what's happened in the previous couple of weeks. A couple of weeks ago I had to forego any fishing due to a weekend spent wrestling with my central heating system. My routine maintenance didn't quite go as smoothly as I'd hoped and it meant that my bait would have to fester in the fridge for another week.

Last week I decided to give the river a miss and headed for an exploratory session on an estate lake. The exploration side of things was pike related and I popped out a deadbait in the margins while I plundered roach, perch and hybrids on the float. Plenty of action from the silver fish - pretty much a fish a chuck but nothing of any size. Not a sniff from the pike all session though. I'll return over the winter for another crack whenever the river is out of sorts.

This week saw me back on the Avon and it's a session that I'd really been looking forward to all week. I knew from early in the week that the weather was going to settle down nicely and coupled with that, the river was also set to fine down nicely. Throw in the fact that I hadn't been on the river for 3 weeks and I was really eager to wet a line.

I turned up with a full quota of gear to cover all angles, as I really had no fixed game plan. I walked up to the middle of stretch and very nearly plumped for another crack at the bream on the feeder, but then I remembered cursing myself after my last visit for not trying one of the downstream pegs. I wandered back downstream and settled on a peg with a decent flow down the middle, but with a nice inside slack that was 8ft deep.

The river was a few inches up, nicely coloured and pretty much bang on what I wanted to find. I popped in a few balls of breadmash mixed with a small amount of groundbait and casters. A couple of baitdroppers full of red maggots were also lowered into place just a rod length out.

I kicked off with a float and centre pin approach. The Maver Powerlite was the order of the day with its 2ft extension taking it up to 17ft. It's a rod I've grown to like over the years and on the river I find it gives me more control than I get from my shorter rods. The float was a home made avon that I'd knocked up from a quill and balsa during the week. The starter baits were maggots and casters on a Kamasan size 15.

Roach and Dace arrived quickly, but all were small. I fired in some extra groundbait and got the first indication that predators were around. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a flash through the water from what looked like a decent perch. I couldn't resist grabbing my deadbait rod and giving it a go. It was also an excuse to free up my hands for a bit, as I needed to set up a leger rig for later on.

It didn't take long to get some action. The float trembled a little, then just slid quickly away. I struck and thought it was a jack pike, but I was surprised to see my 2oz roach had been scoffed by a perch - my first ever on a deadbait. I'd never considered trying for them on deadbaits before and it has really opened my eyes. I'll be looking at refining my approach from now on to see if I can snare one of the bigger ones that patrol this stretch. This one went 2lb 4oz.

To show the size of bait these fish are happy to tackle, I took a picture of it with a deadbait similar to the one I used.

Although I did have some further periods spent on the float and the leger, I concentrated mainly on the predators. I caught 4 pike from the same swim on smelt covered in a bright red worm oil. I've mentioned this before and I have no idea if the oil makes any difference, but it's giving me confidence right now, so I'll stick with it.

All of the pike were jacks - the best perhaps about 5lb. I also trialled a single hook rig and it seemed to go well. I did lose a couple of fish, but I've lost plenty of fish with trebles before, so I'm happy with the initial results. Sadly I ran out of deadbaits with an hour or so to go, so I had to revert back to other tactics.

I had one other perch, but not on deadbait - a bunch of maggots for this one which went 1lb 14oz.

It was a really enjoyable session and as is often the case, I had the river to myself. Temperatures are set to drop a bit this week and we might even have the first glimpse of the white stuff - but only a token gesture if reports are to believed. Hopefully the river will remain in decent nick for next weekend and I'll set about tackling the predators again. I'm already working on some new ideas for the perch and a few things are starting to sprout. I'll do some more research and we'll have to see where it takes me...