Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Single to Double

Christmas Eve fishing is something I look forward to over the festive period. Last year I couldn't get near the river due to flooding, but conditions were bang on this year down the Avon.

I planned a rare two river attack for a change. The early part of the day was set aside for some piking, to make best use of the low light conditions. It was a beautiful morning, with fish topping everywhere and I felt totally confident of banishing my two previous blank pike sessions from memory.

I only took one rod - a bit of a fun rod too, being just a light six foot lure rod. With time in my mind I went straight for the banker swim.

Around half an hour in I was starting to get twitchy and as I often do at these times, I began taking photos. Perched behind the rod I eyed up a downstream shot and fired away. Then I looked back to the water and my float was bobbing away merrily! You can see the ripples in the photo.

Popping the camera down I waited for their float to slide away and hit the bite. Fish on and a fairly solid one at that, but all too quickly, fish off. It was probably a double, but I always say that when I lose them!

I was a little gutted and wondered if my chance had been blown, but I needn't have worried. The float was soon dancing away again and a long, lean fish of around six pound was given the comfy mat treatment.

Relieved to have broken the duck, I switched to a different part of the peg in search of something bigger. I broke out a lamprey section and hooked it very lightly. I had wrecked my trace on the previous fish and only had smaller trebles available. I wanted to avoid burying the hooks too much.

I saw a typical twitch on the float, which heightened my attention. Then a little bob about 10 seconds later. Any moment now I thought....

But nothing happened. That wasn't part of the plan, so after a couple of minutes I lost patience and reeled in. No bait! The fish must have whipped the lightly held bait off the hook.

Although disappointed, I knew there was a fish in the swim who'd just had a free starter, so I was determined to make the main course count.

Less than five minutes later from the same spot (under my feet really) I was battling another pike. It felt small at first, but the fight got stronger. It was good fun on a lighter outfit and the hooks just about did their job, falling out in the net.

It was just a double - 10lb 1oz. Now I can't help thinking that if, as is highly likely, this was the same fish that gobbled up the lamprey section that was pinched five minutes beforehand, then it wouldn't have been a double had I hooked it first time!

I'm a stickler for keeping photos of my pike and I always try to photograph them in the same direction to help with identification in future. Pike are so unique with their markings.

A quick check through my photos saw that this one had met me before, back at the end of August. Although it was a poor photo last time taken late in the evening, it's clearly the same fish. The good news is that it was bang on 9lb last time, so it's doing very nicely.

August capture at 9lb

I called it a day and headed of for a crack at the Leam. I shouldn't have bothered! I fished it all wrong - like a total amateur if I'm honest. Just a couple of roach and a dace to show for it. Oh well, 50% of the day went right! I just wish I had stayed on the Avon now, but that's fishing I guess. I'll make plenty more bad decisions I'm sure.

Have a good Christmas and I'll hopefully be checking in again with another session before the year ends.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

One For The Future

Once again there was extra water flowing through our rivers this week. I was monitoring the Avon and Leam closely for a few days, willing them down to a decent level.

I plumped for the Leam, but decided on new territory this week. I had eyed up a swim on a pre-season recce that I fell for hook, line and sinker. It was a beautiful wide pool (for the upper Leam) below a bend. Nestled in a wooded area it was completely secluded and quiet. It screamed out to be fished.


So why has it taken me until December to fish it? In truth I've tended to take the easier options of less walking, preferring to try out swims nearer to parking areas. Given that I had zero knowledge of the upper river, I didn't really want to take on longer walks without first trying the obvious convenient swims.

The other deciding factor was the mass of chest high vegetation to wade through, just to get near the river. It was too much trouble in all honesty.

Autumn and Winter bring about big changes to the accessibility of natural venues. Areas that were badly overgrown, suddenly open up and my target swim was one of those. With a just a minimal amount of gardening I was settled in position.

I plodded away for about 90 minutes and it was tough going. A roach of 12oz broke my duck, but that was it for that swim. I feel sure it has plenty of potential though (in better conditions) and with a bit more maintenance (which I'll complete next visit) it will be a better proposition.

I tried three other swims and managed only slim pickings - a couple more roach and a dace. I missed too many bites though - possibly roach getting the better of me.

I'm starting to take more of an interest in the redfins through my fishing on the Leam. Having never topped the pound mark with a river roach, I'm eager to put that right now.

It's not quite time for Christmas well wishing yet. I'm hoping to squeeze in a Christmas Eve session.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

A Little Un

A quick recap of last week to begin with and it won't take long. Blank! 

I fished the Avon for pike and only had one bite from two rods across a 4-5 hour stint. The bite resulted in some resistance but I could see most of the lamprey bait hanging clear of the pike's jaws through the all too clear water. I knew it wasn't well hooked and all too quickly the hook was dispatched, My traveling partner suffered a blank also. 

It was a weird session weather wise though with the temperature being 9C on arrival at about 7-30am, but on leaving not long after mid-day it had actually dipped to 5.5C. Rain began to drift in, the wind increased and made it all a bit unpleasant. One to forget.

This week was a "Do I, Don't I?" scenario, with the decision to go only being taken at 6am on Sunday. A quick check of the river levels saw me favouring the Leam, which was falling more quickly than the Avon. 

I once more headed for deep water, but with a two rod feeder attack I placed one bait in the bottomless hole and another in a shallower run tight to the far bank. In the chilly conditions I dug in for the session and wrapped up well, perhaps looking a little too much like a terrorist.

One of the joys of an early start is the occasional stunning sunrise and today was no exception.

The fishing was tough, but four roach found their way on to the bank. The best was 11oz - weighed purely to set a benchmark, as it's the best I've had from the Leam yet.

A half pound perch spoiled the all roach party and all fish had come from the shallower water.

Bites completely tailed off but I did manage one more fish - from the depths - that put a smile on my face.

Only my second ever bullhead, tamed on a size 14 hook with 4 maggots. Greedy little devil! That now takes my Leam species tally to 10  for the season (or 11 if a roach/bream hyrbrid is thrown in).

I packed in at 12pm and went for a wander around to the opposite bank. Mostly unfishable in the summer due to high vegetation and lack of bank clearers, it was now much more exposed. Suddenly a whole host of extra opportunities has opened up and there's a few new swims I'm itching to try now.

I also took a detour on the way home to check out a stretch of canal that has been on my mind. I'm not really a canal fan, probably due to a combination of boyhood memories of struggling to catch, coupled with the fact that I generally prefer as much peace as possible (especially from non-anglers) when I go fishing.

I do need something to occupy me in the closed session though and with a key part of my plans being scuppered by the closure of Warwick Racecourse reservoir, I want to try something different and I think this bit of cut is more suited to me than most.

I also have a stillwater I haven't fished for about 20 years in mind too. Mind you there's no happy memories there either - two visits, two blanks. Still plenty of river season left though, so the plans can wait for now.

Another mixed week of weather ahead - rain, wind, warmth midweek and then cooler towards the weekend with temperatures returning to about normal for the time of year.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Last Cast Saloon

After a one week lay off due to other commitments, I returned to the Leam this week for an afternoon session.

I'd been closely monitoring the river level all week and it did push up to around one metre above normal at one point. A drier end to the week saw it dropping nicely for my arrival though.

After a brief chat with a fellow blogger who had been plundering the abyss, I settled into a swim just below an overhanging tree. The far side offered an enticing slack while the main channel of water was running beneath my feet.

It didn't take off though and a biteless half hour saw me itching for a move. With the deep hole now vacated and no doubt fed, I made a simple choice of dropping in there. Roach were topping from the off, which is always a pleasing sight.

It developed into a strange old session where I missed a lot more bites than I hit. I was using two rods and it was perhaps one of those occasions where one rod fished with 100% attention might have been better than two.

I managed a couple of roach, a perch and a gudgeon which gave the most violent of bites for such a small fish.

The worms weren't successful again and neither were the prawns or bread flake. Bites tailed off over the last couple of hours and the roach were less active on the surface.

I pretty much gave up all hope of catching something that might require netting. Loading up a size 14 hook with 4 maggots I dropped the feeder tight to the far bank in an area I hadn't cast to previously. This was to be my last cast.

I dropped lucky and the tip pulled round. A plump perch popped up in front of me and slipped into my net.

At 1lb 14oz it's a Leam pb for me and over a pound bigger than any other I'd caught from the venue previously.

Maybe I've been attacking the wrong part of the swim all along? It has given me food for thought though because this part of the river has double bank access. The far bank is too overgrown in the summer months but now looks a lot more accessible. A little investigation might be needed when the water levels drop down fully.

If my phone is to be believed we should have a drier and cooler week ahead. A return to the pike could be on the cards.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Odds Against

An away day this weekend at the glorious Blenheim Palace.

Sadly the fishing was less than glorious. Joined by 9 other boats on the day we only saw one fish caught and that was while we were approaching our first port of call near the Grand Bridge.

We worked hard all day moving our way around half the lake, eventually getting back to our starting point, taking in 9 different swims.

Brian takes the oars. Rio 2016 beckons!
Shallow water, bankside margins, rotting lily beds, reed beds, overhanging trees, deep water, open water. Every likely swim was tried.

Deadbaits (4 types) were tried hard on the bottom, suspended and wobbled. Plugs, spoons, jerkbaits and a strange but hypnotic looking squid lure were all given a shot too. All this between two anglers across four rods.

Only one fish was seen topping and when you see what they have to put up with, it's hardly surprising.

There are 12 cormorants in the above photo and number 13 was just out of shot. Whatever fish are in the lake are possibly tightly shoaled wherever they feel safe.

A brief chat with a local bank fisherman in the car park before we started fishing revealed he'd had just one pike in five sessions. He said it was a shadow of what it was, but blamed much of it on migrant anglers taking fish.

I tend to think that our feathered competitors are a more obvious concern. They were present on my previous visit two and a half years ago, but numbers seem much higher now.

It's a lovely venue to fish and the whole boat experience makes it something totally different to the norm. It's one of those settings where fishing is just a bonus and the autumnal colours on this occasion were very easy on the eye.

Will I go back again? - Yes I probably will. Not for the prospect of prolific fishing, but more for the novelty factor, the idyllic setting, good company and the off chance that i might get my net wet. Some fishing days aren't all about the fishing.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Autumn At Last

Firstly, a quick catch up from last week. I squeezed a day off work and headed down the Avon in stupidly balmy conditions of around 20C.

There were plenty of roach and dace to stick float tactics. A cheeky switch to a big roach deadbait saw a first cast take and a decent fish was on. Sadly we parted company and a nice double wasn't to be my prize. I sulked for most of the session after that.

The pike were very quiet and I only managed a small consolation by way of a jack that had also seen my unhooking mat the previous week.

On to this week and what a change. Tthe temperature was 10C lower, albeit close to the average for the time of year. The river was carrying about 18 inches of extra water.

The venue was the Leam this time. Having checked the river levels, my usual stretch of the Avon was around a foot up. That isn't a problem but it's about the limit of what I like it to be. I was interested to see how the Leam would handle the extra water.

I was pleasantly surprised to see a slightly coloured river with just a touch more flow than usual and in decent nick. It was only going to be a short afternoon session and after messing around with a float rig I switched to a feeder attack.

I recently acquired another TFG 8-10ft Compact All Rounder rod. I already had the Nan-Tec version but I couldn't resist buying the normal version for a bargain £35.99 (includes an extra 10% discount) at Go Outdoors. Both rods were put into action - one with worm and the other with a bunch of maggots.

The worm was a poor second and the perch seemed much happier with maggots. I had half a dozen up to about half a pound from a hole over 17ft deep.

A couple of roach also chipped in, along with a ruffe.

I dabbled with a deadbait at times but I wasn't confident and drew a blank on that front. I saw some predatory movement mid river on a couple of occasions and it looked like a decent perch. I will need to persist with the worms I think as there are some classic perch swims to be found on this stretch. The good news on the worm front is that my accidental wormery is flourishing and supplies are plentiful.

A pleasant afternoon apart from suffering another Coventry City debacle on the radio. I'll be giving the Leam plenty of attention over the latter part of the season I think.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Opportunity Knocks

Another short Saturday afternoon session this week on the Avon. The changing of the clocks signals the end of this routine for me, but it also means that some dedicated predator sessions are just around the corner (when it eventually gets cold).

I always like this transitional period. Dace and roach that were often hard to come by in the heat of summer are now eager to feed hard ahead of the winter months. It's like a different river and the silver fish are easy to catch in big numbers.

That's how it started this week anyway. It was great fun just trotting a couple of maggots on a size 16 below a home made Avon float, teasing it through the 6 feet deep swim with a centre pin reel.

Bites came instantly from both roach and dace. Four runs through yielded four fish and then came the all too familiar washing machine impression beneath my feet as the fourth fish went back.

It was a sure sign that a pike was in the swim. I didn't think I'd get through the day without seeing one and I came prepared to sieze any opportunities like this. Out with the pike gear, on with a smelt and wait patiently for the perpetrator to show up.

It took all of one cast for it show its hand. A small jack was bagged and taken away a few pegs upstream to clear the path for the silvers again.

And that pretty much set the tone for the day. Catch a few roach and dace, excite the pike, catch pike and start again. I had a dabble at the perch in between with worms and even a bit of drop shotting (a new one for me), but it wasn't a success.

I had a further 3 pike, but they were all jacks.

The final one was marginally the biggest and also fought very hard. It came at last knockings and I could barely see the float. After a bit of dentistry by headlight I called it a day as an owl begin to hoot in the background - too spooky for me!

It's amazing what a difference a few weeks makes. Three weeks previous I spent 4 hours solely fishing for pike across 3 swims (including the one i fished this time) and totally blanked.

This week I only had a deadbait in the water for maybe an hour in total and bagged 4 fish from the same swim, all from a similar area close to the bank.

I do feel that by feeding up a shoal of prey fish and having them regularly flapping through the swim as they are caught and then swimming back through it after release, is a kind of pre-baiting for the main course. It's the best of both worlds for me. I get to catch fish on the stick, all the time improving the pike prospects.

No big girls on show just yet though but I've learned that you just have to be patient and wade through the jacks. They will show up in time.

Next week sees us with some unseasonably mild weather again with southerly winds picking up and taking over at the back end of the week. Until we hit a proper cold spell I'll continue my two pronged attack I think.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Accidental Wormery

It's always nice to stumble on something really useful by accident - even more so when it's right under your nose.

I'd left it late to collect a few worms for my fishing session, so I wanted a quick solution. My usual panic method involves digging up whatever spare piece of land is available in my vegetable plots. During the main growing season this is impossible because all spare land is quickly planted with more crops.

Now, I did have a small free plot available on this occasion, but I tried something different. I'm an avid bird feeder and during the year the birds get clumsy and drop lots of seed from the feeders. This accumulates over time and begins to germinate, creating unwanted growth in my borders. When I've cleaned it out in the past I found lots of small worms.

The first shock was just how thick the growth was. From absolutely nothing, there was a thick, lush covering about 3 to 4 inches deep. A Hebe had been totally swallowed up! I pulled out a section of the green mass and amongst it were stacks of clean, immaculate worms of all sizes, including some big old lobworms. A positive worm bounty!

I pulled up a few clods and filled my tub with wrigglers, then patted it all back into place. Very easy, very clean and the most amazing quantity of worms in such a short space. I don't know if it will last, but for now I'll suffer a slightly scruffy section of border for this great cause. I'll monitor it over winter and see how it goes in the colder weather.

I guess it makes a bit of sense because we associate worms with lawns and between me and the bird life we've effectively created a small section of new lawn. The difference is that I can't dig up my main lawn in the name of fishing, but this little worm haven can be ploughed up whenever I need to.

On to this week's fishing and I headed off to the Avon for a short afternoon session. After my previous hopeless pike session I left the predator gear at home and concentrated on bream. The river was carrying a small amount of extra water, but had a nice touch of colour for a change.

I boshed out a few balls of bait and attacked it with red maggots to start with. I went with a braid mainline to help with hitting the bites. Initially they were easy to come by from small dace and chub.

A switch to worm brought a bream of around 1.5lbs straight away and I thought I was in for a few of them. A couple of perch to about half a pound followed but then a more spirited fight turned up something I wasn't after on this occasion - a pike. I very nearly landed it but the hook pulled clear as I went to net it.

From that point on the fishing seemed to change. Bites were harder to come by and I was plagued with leaves and debris fouling my hooklength. A few roach started to show eventually though and a surprise eel showed up at last knockings.

Not quite the session I'd hoped for, but with half a dozen species banked (and nearly seven!) it was a pleasant enough encounter. 

Lots of wind and some rain due this week, but still no sign of any real cold weather setting in.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Quiet Times

Fishing has been few and far between for me recently and what bits I have done, have been mostly forgettable.

A couple of weekends were wiped out by a holiday to Croatia. My return to the river last week was a short session after pike from mid afternoon into evening.

I alternated smelt and roach deadbaits beneath a float for 4 hours across 3 swims. Not so much as a sniff on a low clear river. On an adjacent peg a new club member was wobbling a sprat and suffered the same fate. For an area that holds plenty of pike it was hard to believe that they'd all shut up shop.

On to this weekend and I headed off to Herefordshire for another weekend away. The Wye looked spot on with a bit of extra colour and water.

Small fish were plentiful to maggot and stick float tactics, but the barbel proved more elusive. Between three of us only two were banked and they fell to the same rod. Beautiful scenery as ever though and a welcoming host.

A 7-11 barbel close to surrender

The next day saw us on a small shallow estate lake chasing carp and silver fish. A cold foggy morning greeted us, which wasn't exactly ideal. We toiled hard but for little reward on a moody lake. One carp, which did a great torpedo impression, was hooked and lost. Some roach offered a smidgeon of sport. Once again a lovely setting, but lacking in fishy activity.

I need a change of luck sometime soon. There's only so many swans and floats I can photograph! Maybe the wet stuff lashing down outside as I write this, will herald a change in fortune. Last week's rain did very little for the Avon but hopefully this week we'll have a more sustained downpour.

Temperatures are set to rise towards the weekend and I'd like to think I'll be tackling a river with a nice tinge of colour next time out.