Sunday, 20 July 2014

A Late One

Just over a week ago I had a rare chance of an evening session after work - in fact it tied in perfectly with me breaking up for a week off. My wife was heading straight from an afternoon works do to an evening do with friends over in Rugby. Relieved of my after work taxi duties I headed off down the Avon for a 6pm start, knowing that I needed to be in Rugby for around 11pm - perfect for a fish into dusk. It's a great time to be on the bank, but all too rare for me.

It was a glorious evening with the added bonus (if that's the right word!) of the last half hour of the test match on the radio, followed by a Warwickshire (or should I say Birmingham) Bears T20 clash. Fishing, cricket, decent weather and a river to myself - a perfect match.

As well as a general stick float approach, I'd planned to have a dabble for the large perch that can often be seen in this stretch, but I'd already realised during my journey that I'd screwed up. The worms I'd dug up barely 15 minutes before leaving home were sat on the green wheelie bin at home. Luckily I'd brought some prawns (marinated in a worm oil attractor) so they'd have to form my main perch attack.

A few balls of groundbait were plopped into place across two lines - one just off the platform for the perch line and another around a rod length out for the stick line. Dace were plentiful to maggot on the stick line and all the time I was feeding maggots on the perch line. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a decent (2lb+) perch moving amonsgt the maggots I'd just fed, so I decided to see what it thought of a prawn.

I dropped one above its head and watched it sink down through the clear water. The perch took it like a dream on the drop - but then spat it out equally as quickly. Bugger! Undeterred I gave it a go with the prawns but I never had a take - just a few sharp plucks that might well have been line bites. Maggots didn't do the trick either. Decent perch were in the swim throughout the session though - another time maybe...

The stick line continued to produce small fish throughout the session with roach, perch, dace, gudgeon and bleak all showing. Out of the blue I had a slow take that I thought was just the line dragging bottom, but the bottom began to move! It was a heavy fish, but certainly very ponderous too. On light tackle I could only let it take line as it swam out towards mid river. Then the hook pulled, followed by a few expletives.

I figured it either had to be a bream or perhaps a foul hooked fish that didn't even realise it was hooked. I upped the hook size to a 14 and gave it another go. Within 10 minutes I was into a bream which was hooked much better and this one made it to the bank. It was in the 3.5lb to 4lb range. Not a big bream I guess, but it's nice to get one trotting at close range on the centre pin.

For the last half hour I was piked out. Fish after fish was attacked and in all but one case I managed to pull the fish clear of the pike's jaws. The one fish that was grabbed had a lucky escape. I'd played the pike for around 2 minutes and I've generally found that if they stay on for that long, I usually get them in. Quite often in these cases the hook has transferred from the prey fish to the pike and careful playing will win the day.

In this case it just turned out that the pike was ultra stubborn and wouldn't give up his supper. Eventually it did let go and I swung the dace into hand. It was barely marked and still seemed to be OK. I popped it into the landing net to give it a breather and it then swam off with plenty of gusto.

I packed up when the bells of a local church chimed for 10pm and I could barely see my float. It was a pleasant evening session with lots of fish showing and hopefully I'll find an opportunity to repeat it soon - not forgetting my worms next time!

Monday, 14 July 2014

Dream or Nightmare?

Time for a catch up and after a week off to make progress with decorating the kitchen / utility area, I had the pleasure of a weekend away at Hereford. I always look forward to these trips which generally end up being more of a social outing than anything deadly serious in terms of the fishing. That said, the prep work in the week beforehand seemed never ending and despite seriously scaling down my gear, I still ended up winning the who's brought the most gear award!

We headed off on the Friday evening to allow us an early start the next morning. Having checked in to our hotel we headed off on the arduous journey to the nearest pub - all of 40 yards from our room to the bar I'd guess! A few beers helped me off to sleep and 4-50am came around very quickly. The rather inadequately sized kettle was swiftly into action with 4 flasks to be filled. Several boilings later and we were winding our way through the Herefordshire countryside in search of a small estate lake we'd booked for the day.

The lake (or pool) was Trelough Pool which is bookable through the Wye & Usk Foundation. Now it's not normally my bag to be fishing a pool when the rivers are open and perfectly fishable. I make an exception in this case though because the pool is seldom fished and having taken up all 3 tickets, we knew we'd got the place to ourselves for the day. It's a bit of indulgence that we wouldn't get to do very often, so we decided to give it a shot.

It was a beautiful pool with excellent access - parking right by the water's edge. The colour was a deep chocolate brown, which was a blessing because it was very shallow. Bubbles could be seen all round the pool and the bottom was being churned up in many places by feeding fish.

Eager to get started we unloaded the van. Brian was first off the mark and had a disaster before even setting up any gear. The flask that he'd lovingly prepared was shattered into pieces on the floor of the van. Aluminium - it's the only way to go!

We knew it was full of roach and we all caught plenty of them - but only small ones. We also knew it contained eels, but we didn't bank on how many. Again, we all had our share of them - Charlie being the eel king with no less than 16 of the slimy ones. Unlike eels I might encounter on my local Avon, these were very pale and silvery in colour - no doubt due to the murky colour of the water.

The pool contains carp and in mind at all times was our weekend side bet - a fiver each for the biggest carp, the biggest barbel and the most species. Anyone bagging all 3 categories would also get a bonus fiver, taking it up to £20 from each other angler. Game on...

I hadn't seen any carp but I flicked out a few bits of bread towards an island with overhanging trees. Soon enough a carp popped out and began devouring all the bread. I introduced a bit more and that went the same way. This was going to be easy I thought. My baited rig went out and didn't get taken. The carp was keeping tight to the island. I was too short of the mark and a braver cast was needed.

I gave it another fling and my bread hit the edge of the tree but plopped down into the water. I was in business and it didn't take long for all hell to break loose. To cut it short I was attached to a decent carp, but in the shallow water it totally bossed me and snagged me up, leaving me fishless.

The carp proved to be totally frustrating throughoput the day and one other similar encounter with an equally suicidical cast ended in the same fate. To add insult to injury for the last hour or two I had a nice carp continually ploughing up the margin swim that I'd been baiting throughout the day. The water was so shallow at that point, that when it fed hard on the bottom, its tail would stick up out of the water! It just wouldn't take my bait though.

No-one else managed to land a carp (Brian came close), so that side bet was void. Charlie snook ahead in the species stakes with 4 (roach, eel, perch, bream) with myself and Brian languishing on 3 (roach, eel, rudd). Sadly we had to leave well before dusk - just as the fishing looked set to really take off. The need for food and beer was greater.

After an unsuccesful attempt to get McDonalds to open at 5-45am on a Sunday, we managed to satisfy Brian's coffee craving at a garage with Costa facilities. I didn't go into the garage, but Charlie was on form apparently. They do regular and large coffees, but they didn't have any large cups - only regular - so no point opting for large. You know the rest - one flooded machine later and we were off on our way to the Wye!

Day 2 saw us at one of our usual haunts. This one isn't a WUF beat, but a private section that has seen some good improvements made during the closed season by the bailiff. It's now an even longer section (close on 2 miles) and almost half of it can be accessed by driving straight to your peg. It doesn't have the exclusivity of the WUF beats, but there's plenty of pegs to go around.

I always find myself in awe of this river. Whenever I arrive at my peg I'll always sit back for a few moments and just take in the surroundings. So much wildlife around and while buzzards can often be seen floating above the treeline, we'd actually seen one close up down by the water's edge as we'd driven along the bank.

As majestic as the surroundings were, the bailiff gave us the bad news that the river had switched off totally the previously day in the bright conditions - even the banker swim wasn't producing. Previously it had been fishing well apparently with over 400 barbel taken since the start of the season.

My swim was one I knew from a previous visit a few years ago - on my first visit to the Wye. On that occasion I was on the opposite bank and had a red letter day, taking 16 barbel and hitting the magical ton. This day was to be a little different - 16 barbel different to be precise. And no, I didn't catch 32! I totally blanked - a nightmare in dream surroundings.

The only barbel reported on the stretch all day across 13 anglers came from our party - Charlie taking one of 4lb 12oz fairly early on. He also sneaked out a chub of about 2.5lb. Some dace meant that he'd taken his species tally to 7 and at that point I gave up on trying to catch him. I just went all out for the barbel and it didn't happen. Fishing into dark might have seen a change in fortune, but we needed to get back and that wasn't an option.
Charlie plays a barbel
We're going to to repeat it later in the year when the conditions will hopefully be better for the barbel. Time will also be on our side and fishing into dusk will be on the cards. Hopefully I'll get my tenner back (and more) next time...

I've had one other session since the Wye trip - report to follow soon.