Saturday, 31 December 2016

Watching the Birds

One last short session to see the year out. A change of river to the Anker to see if I could extract something of note to boost my challenge scorecard.

Attempts were made at the perch, pike and zander across two likely swims,  but not a single taker. A blank to end the year, but one of the more enjoyable ones if there is such a thing!

The show put on by a kingfisher and an occasional accomplice, made the session drift by nicely. They definitely didn't blank!

A pair of robins popped by to mop up what the perch didn't seem interested in. Definitely a day for bird watching.

I renewed the Anker ticket on my journey home and I look forward to locking horns with it again throughout 2017. It certainly has a lot more potential than I've unearthed so far and it keeps drawing me back. Definitely a keeper!

I'm not one for making resolutions, but I will be making more time for other species in 2017. I didn't bag a tench or crucian in 2016, largely down to the waters that I had tickets for. That will change for 2017 and I'll be bringing in something to give me more variety over the spring months when the rivers close.

Happy New Year to you all. Tight lines for 2017!

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Just Chilling!

A bonus morning session. With my wife insisting on heading to the gym to work off some over indulgence, I decided to take it easy and go fishing.

It was a cool, crisp -2C on arrival, as I dispatched the remnants of my morning cuppa. Leaves rustled as they became caffeine coated, but then kept on rustling. What's that all about? Ah, the ubiquitous robin had arrived once again after a feed. I gave it a small offering and headed off into the gloom.

Despite wanting to get away from the predator fishing for a little while, I backtracked on that decision. When it gets really cold I struggle to do anything else.

With limited time, I chose a peg with lots of bank space and plenty of water above and below me. I'd sit it out for the full session and work as much of the ample peg as possible.

I've mentioned it in other posts that I'm a bit of a twitcher (of deadbaits). The way I like to approach such a big swim is almost like a game of battleships. Imagine the swim viewed from above as a grid of 1 yard squares. The object is to get a bait in every square, to search out fish that perhaps aren't all that active right now. 

This means moving baits around the swim regularly, usually in a series of V shaped retrieves using 2 rods. Start long and twitch the baits back a yard or so at time, every 3-5 minutes. Keep varying the angle of the V and fish different baits on each rod (roach, smelt, lamprey and sardine on this occasion) all the way back to the nearside bank to complete the V.

A simple and cunning plan that's good for keeping busy and focused on the coldest of days. The problem was that the fish weren't having any of it!

Just one bite in 4 hours and from a fish I'd had a couple of weeks ago. A zander of 5lb 15oz - an ounce lighter this time. Thanks to Martin Roberts for the photo and sparing me another botched self-take. 

Martin, despite a later start, did me for numbers from a couple of pegs downstream. A pair of very clean fish - a zed and a jack.

The robin was pestering me again as I was packing up the car!

New Year's Eve is looking like my next brief opportunity. More predator fishing is likely if it stays cold, but a change of venue and river is on the cards next time.

With one club ticket up for renewal next week, plans are already being hatched for next year. 

The estate lake ticket is being dropped as it hasn't delivered on various counts. I'm sticking with the other three river based clubs though, which leaves a gap for something else. It looks like I'll be returning to old ground, but in search of something new.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Upholding Tradition

Christmas Eve fishing is something I always look forward to. Always a short session, but it gets me in a relaxed mood as I ease into the festive period. A cracking sunrise along the Avon valley was a real bonus too.

I'd actually forgotten how tranquil and beautiful this section of river can be. I've neglected it a little too much this year in favour of newer pastures.

This wasn't a session to be concerned with targets. The brief was to cover off a few bases and make sure of catching some fish. With fish topping regularly in the low early morning light, it wasn't difficult to get off the mark.

Roach, dace and bleak were easy to catch on the maggot. Pike were also showing an interest in my lamprey offering. An early jack got me off to a quick start with the predators.

A switch off the maggot to lobworm and then prawn, didn't bring any luck with the perch. Pike were taunting me. Three lost on the strike or to hook pulls.

I clawed back a bit of respectability by banking fish on the next two runs. The best was around 7-8lb (bottom photo).

Not hugely prolific by any means, but an enjoyable morning catching a few fish and hopefully not the last of the year's action for me. If I can get through the next few days' family obligations unscathed and with good behaviour, I should earn myself a pass out before the year ends.

Have a great Christmas everyone.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Out of the Gloom

After my doomed session a couple of weeks ago, last week wasn't much better. Arriving early and eager to crack on, I had that horrible comedown when you realise an essential bit of kit is still in your garage!

My trusty tbermal boots were the casualty on this occasion. Camouflaged by their protective bag, I failed to spot them in the early morning murk. Memo to self - turn the garage light on next time!

I contemplated roughing it with my trainers, but I knew it was utter madness. Boggy ground and knackered old trainers don't cut it - and even more so when it's only 2C outside.

Back down the A46 to rescue my boots and over 1.5 hours after originally setting out I returned to a different, slightly nearer venue. I'd clocked up nearly 70 miles that morning and ended up barely 25 minutes from home! Just another relaxing Sunday.

The river was up a little after rain. Just about peaking, it looked bang on.

I lost something decent to a snag on my first chuck on the meat. Nothing else all session though, apart from a tentative bite on a roach deadbait that saw me striking into thin air. A second consecutive blank and December was continuing in gloomy fashion.

I caught up with one of the locals who'd been out since first light and he'd covered sone of the 30+ pegs below me. He'd not had a sniff. All a bit odd really, but they just weren't having it.

On to this week and I had the whole section to myself. Another early start and I managed to bring everything this week! The plan was to attack the zander while the light levels were still low and then figure it from there.

A standard setup with decapitated roach deadbaits on single hooks, fished under a float. It took a couple of missed bites before it was third time lucky. A bit of a Trigger from Only Fools and Horses moment though!

Action had been slow and I was busy getting a meat rod ready when I saw my right hand float move slightly. I'd just moved my arm around the rod and thought I might have brushed it slightly. It went again about 10 seconds later and my eyes were now drawn to it. I definitely hadn't touched the rod that time.

A quick routine glance to check my left hand float saw that it was heading off upstream at a rate of knots. Shit! A double hook up on the cards I thought. Then the penny dropped that the movement on the right hand float was caused by the vibrations feeding through from the other rod. Doh!

A quick scrap followed and I banked a respectable zander of exactly 5lb. Right species, but a pound shy of my season's target.

Another missed bite and a longer period of inactivity saw me making a move a couple of pegs upstream. More woe though as I connected with a solid fish on a lamprey section (a pike I think), but the hook pulled. At this point I'd only converted 1 of 5 bites. Poor going and my patience was being tested, but I ploughed on.

Faith was restored when I got it right on the next bite and another zed popped into my net. A better fish and as it happens, exactly the target weight I was after - 6lb on the nose and another pb. Excuse the poor photo. Need to adjust some settings for self takes.

I love the tails on zander. Quite amazing sized paddles and you can see where they get their fighting power from. I'd love to see what a good double scraps like. Dream on...

The final action came from a jack after I'd switched one rod to a sardine.

A kingfisher provided the entertainment for the final hour on the next peg downstream. Where's bluey?:

The pike and zander will probably take a back seat now while I search for that elusive 5lb chub over the next month or so. That could be a little more tricky I think, but if I can just get a pb I'll settle for that.

Wet and windy later in the week. Hopefully it won't scupper my traditional Christmas Eve session.

The updated scores for my season's river challenge are:

Barbel (11lb 1oz - Warks Avon) - 110.63% of target - pb
Bream (8lb 2oz - Anker) - 101.36% - pb
Pike (19lb 3oz - Warks Avon) - 95.94%
Zander (6lb 0oz  - Warks Avon) - 100% -pb
Chub (4lb 3oz - Warks Avon) - 83.75%
Carp (8lb 0oz - Warks Avon) - 80% - river pb
Perch (1lb 6oz - Anker) - 45.83%
Total - 617.71 (Target 700)

Monday, 5 December 2016


Another afternoon session and with it being chilly, I switched to a full predator attack. Sadly, it wasn't much of an assault - more like a gradual and unconditional surrender.

The usual car park encounter with the cheeky resident robin kicked things off. This bird knows the score and is a proper little beggar! Incredibly friendly too, but that goes for most of these red breasted creatures. A light snack was dished out and I was on my way.

With just two cars in the car park I fancied I might get one of my preferred pegs. Unfortunately the occupants were either side of where I wanted to be, once I'd reached the river. Now I know I could have sandwiched between them, but it's not my thing. I prefer a bit of space and peace, so I headed upstream to try a new peg.

A nice enough peg, but a little lacking in depth for my liking. An hour or so of blanking followed. A move upstream to deeper water yielded the same outcome.

A final move back downstream saw no change in peg occupancy. In fact there was now more competition.

A long trudge further downstream seemed like a good idea, but when I got to a vaguely suitable peg, I found myself not really giving a damn. Some youths had appeared in the vicinity and seemed up to no good. I couldn't settle and by now any semblance of enthusiasm had been knocked out of me. The white flag was waved.

Even though I had a good hour+ of daylight left, I took one last wander across the meadow to the car. I bid the robin farewell and headed home for a date with a food cupboard. This is the annual pre-Christmas space clearing ritual where all manner of out of date crap I never knew my wife had bought, is consigned to the bin. It seemed marginally more exciting than more blanking!

Some days it's just not meant to happen, but it's still nice to be out though and the exercise will do me good I guess. A mixed bag of weather this week and if things drop right for next weekend, I'm hoping to squeeze a little more time on the bank. I just hope to get my net wet next week...

Sunday, 27 November 2016

The Long Final Furlong

Finally the much needed rain showed up as the working week kicked off. The Avon had returned to a normal Winter level by the time I got to chance my arm on the Sunday. It was in great nick though and still holding a bit of colour. No excuses or moans this week!

Another lazy start for me, allowing sufficient time to recover from the previous night's excess. I covered all bases, but I had two targets in my sights - chub or perch. I'd decide once I'd chosen a location.

Fancying a change of scenery, I headed to the furthest downstream stretch. With no cars present, I didn't need a second invitation. I had a peg in mind that always screams chub to me - even if it hasn't always delivered.

I dug in for the afternoon and with plenty of swim to go at, I set about legering meat on a single rod for the entire session. A little one dimensional I guess, but I just feel more confident with it. Old habits die hard!

First chuck threw up a mint condition chub of around a pound. Small, but welcome and any risk of blanking was quickly banished.

It wasn't as easy as I hoped it was going to be though. A couple of missed bites added to the frustration and I was beginning to think that I wouldn't be adding to the early fish.

Persistence (or perhaps stubbornness) paid off when a proper old wrap around bite saw me attached to my target quarry.

Now, I don't have much of a track record with chub. For some reason they tend to pass me by. I've never had a five pounder and fours have been pretty scarce too. The fish I was busy extracting was certainly banging on the door of being a pb.

The fight was pretty tame and uneventful. It popped straight into the net and was quickly weighed. A long fish that was just shy of my pb. The scales locked on 4lb 3oz. A step in the right direction for my challenge scorecard, but I'm still aiming for that elusive five pounder.

Talking of the challenge, I've now pushed through the 600 point barrier. The race to the finish is now on, but the last bit will be the hardest. Perch aside, points will now be trickier to come by for all species. The scores are:

Barbel (11lb 1oz - Warks Avon) - 110.63% of target - pb
Bream (8lb 2oz - Anker) - 101.36% - pb
Pike (19lb 3oz - Warks Avon) - 95.94%
Zander (5lb 7oz  - Warks Avon) - 90.63% -pb
Chub (4lb 3oz - Warks Avon) - 83.75%
Carp (8lb 0oz - Warks Avon) - 80% - river pb
Perch (1lb 6oz - Anker) - 45.83%
Total - 608.34 (Target 700)

A cool and dry week ahead won't do much for next weekend's prospects. Perch might get some attention next time out.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Breaking The Jack Curse

Just a short 3 hour session this week, slotted in between some taxi duties. Once again, a near empty car park at the first stretch I passed, was enough to tempt me in.

A quick scurry across the meadows and I dropped in on the lucky zander peg from the previous week. Then I spotted a deadbait float just upstream, indicating someone was in the next peg fishing a downstream rod. Even though they were out of sight, I just prefer to have more breathing space. I moved a further peg downstream.

I went for a two rod approach. One for my standard pike deadbaits (smelt, lamprey, sardine) fished on trebles. The other was a single hook rig with roach for zander. Both were fished hard on the deck on a running leger rig.

I didn't have to wait long for the first bite on the pike rod. The smelt was confidently taken and I was playing another of those jacks. As it charged around the swim I spotted it wasn't a jack after all. A zander, with a taste for a sea deadbait.

I popped it in the net and acquired an inquisitive visitor from two pegs upstream. He was on a blank (his 4th consecutive one!) and came to talk tactics. I put him to good use with the scales and the verdict was a new pb of 5lb 7oz. Just a quick unflattering photo as the fish made it clear it wasn't happy being handled.

After the early success, I moved into a period of struggle. Turning to my trusty soup flask, I set about devouring the contents and dug myself in for the afternoon. Normally i like to move a bit, but i just fancied there might be more zander around.

Regularly moving the baits around the swim and twitching them periodically, I eventually got a take on the pike rod. I'd just repositioned it in the margin and it was swiftly nailed soon after the float settled.

I struck and felt a series of violent head shakes before it powered off on its first run. This wasn't a zander. I could see it was a long fish and clearly a double. My run of single jacks was about to end I hoped.

As I coaxed the fish towards the net, my mood became a little more serious when I saw the size of its now flared jaw. A miserable netting attempt left me cursing as the fish powered off again. I knew I was now tackling a big double and I was praying the hooks would hold.

A second offering of the net did the trick, but only just. It self unhooked in the net, albeit with a set of trebles missing. As I lifted it, my estimations moved up towards the twenty mark. It was a hefty brute. After a quick bit of dentistry, the missing trebles were recovered and it was time for a weigh in.

The digital scales just wouldn't settle properly, so I pulled out my back up Avons to get a better reading. I settled for 19lb 3oz. A magnificent fish that I genuinely wasn't expecting at this stage of the season. It will no doubt be a twenty later in the season. The upstream angler had moved on, so I attempted a quick and not altogether successful self take.

I then moved up a peg, but it didn't achieve anything though. The last hour was completely barren.

The latest scores for my season's river challenge are :

Barbel (11lb 1oz - Warks Avon) - 110.63% of target - pb
Bream (8lb 2oz - Anker) - 101.36% - pb
Carp (8lb 0oz - Warks Avon) - 80% - river pb
Perch (1lb 6oz - Anker) - 45.83%
Chub (3lb 4oz - Warks Avon) - 65%
Zander (5lb 7oz  - Warks Avon) - 90.63% -pb
Pike (19lb 3oz - Warks Avon) - 95.94%
Total - 589.59 (Target 700)

The good news is that we received some much needed rain overnight and I believe more is due in the early part of the week. Prospects might be very interesting next week.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

A Late Change

I had no idea what to do ahead of my latest outing. Extra water earlier in the week had mostly dropped out, but fresh water was now heading in. Would it be enough to colour it up?

I hedged my bets, which basically meant doing bugger all preparation and heading out to the pub. I'd reassess it in the morning.

A tinge of despair set in when I got up and checked the internet. The level had barely moved overnight and another clear river beckoned. Feeling a little groggy I took my time and decided to go for predators again, with a midday start.

The plan was to head off to my main pike area to see if I could end the curse of the jacks. A rethink was in order when I passed my other water and saw just one familiar car in the car park. I was expecting more anglers. Suddenly it was all change and now I was thinking more about zander.

Mick appeared while I was swigging back my pre-walk coffee and after a quick catch up, I headed off to try a different area with deep water. Although I liked the peg, the sun's position was making life uncomfortable.

Rowing boats were also in close proximity. A megaphone wielding coach offering advice from his motor powered vessel. The cox following suit through the loudspeaker within the main craft. I wasn't in the mood to work around it, so I headed back downstream.

After another biteless hour on my next peg (usually a banker), half of the four hour session had gone. A blank was now on the cards. I still had one other banker to try, but a recently cleared peg grabbed my attention instead. With plenty of nearside cover, it just looked spot on.

It proved to be the right choice when the right hand float pulled under and held. A spirited fight kicked off and I could see it was a zander. After madness had subsided, it slipped into the net and I had my second ever zed by design. It was neatly hooked in the scissors with a single hook (as recommended by Mick!) to a decapitated roach deadbait.

A new pb, but only 4lb 6oz. Still, it edges me closer to my 6lb target for the season. I'm secretly getting a little greedy though. Knowing that double figure fish have been caught here in the past, I know that's the target I really want to hit. Patience and a lot more bank hours required - neither of which are in abundance for me.

A final move for the last hour threw up nothing but frustration. No fewer than six takes on the right hand rod and none converted! All in the same area and I suspect from the same fish. A canny, cagey or perhaps cunning one. Or, as Mick suggested, one with eyes bigger than belly!

Not a prolific session, but my late decision to switch venues at least paid off with a pb. With cooler conditions due and no sign of any weather that might add colour to the rivers, it's likely to be more of the same for me next week.

The latest scores for my 7 species river challenge are :

Barbel (11lb 1oz) - 110.63% - pb
Bream (8lb 2oz) - 101.36% - pb
Carp (8lb 0oz) - 80% - river pb
Perch (1lb 6oz) - 45.83%
Chub (3lb 4oz) - 65%
Zander (4lb 6oz) - 72.92% -pb
Pike (5lb 10oz) - 28.13%
Total - 504.07 (Target 700)

Friday, 11 November 2016

A New Direction

Another half a dozen weeks has slipped by since I last checked in. Finally we seem to have given the slip to that absurdly warm and dry period. Autumn has arrived at last. So where have I been?

October kicked off with a pleasantly unpleasant session on the Avon. A pre-arranged affair between three of us, where we'd fish into dark. The company - great. The fishing and weather - pretty awful for a couple of us.

Rain blighted the session and made things uncomfortable. Mick did well to make a blog post out of it - much more patience and creativity than I could have given it! My outcome was a lone jack taken on my first cast. No sign of the hoped for zander. They are elusive, borderline mythical, on this stretch for sure!

A week later I switched to the Anker and although a lot drier, it didn't fish well. Like the Avon, it was running low and clear, as it has for most of the past four months. Another grinding effort that resulted in a pound plus perch and a jack.

A welcome two weekend lay off for a spot of cruising saved me from taking further punishment at the hands of our natural venues. I consciously divorced myself from the internet world while on holiday.  It was so refreshing to just shut the phone / tablet data down and to immerse myself in other things.

Feeling refreshed, I hoped I might return to hear that the heavens had opened. No such luck. More pain to come...

Back to the Avon to see if the zander would play ball, or maybe a barbel. Coarse deadbaits for the zeds, while an altogether scaled back maggot feeder approach would be tried for the babs.

In all honesty it wasn't really a barbel plan. More a case of a catch anything plan, but with the hope of fluking / fooling one on lighter gear.

I began in the zander banker area where I'd had one a few weeks earlier. Nothing doing on deadbait or maggot. A move to a more barbel friendly peg didn't yield anything either.

Readying myself for another move, I figured the roach deadbait would have to be replaced with something else. Reeling in, I gave a sharp tug to eject the bait and left it to flutter down through the water. Securing the hook for imminent transportation, I casually glanced down to see how my discarded bait was dropping - purely to see just how clear the water was.

In no time at all, my whole roach had managed to attach itself to a pike! All I could do was to watch it manoevre the free offering down its throat, by some vigorous head shaking. Look at what you could have won!

The interesting thing for me is that I wasn't guilty of just leaving the deadbait static. I'm a born twitcher! I swear by regularly twitching deadbaits to help induce a take. Yet it didn't work here. This fish wanted something higher in the water it seemed. Maybe I need to get back to the wobbling method I used a lot more in years gone by?

My next swim (a new one to me) threw up some bits to maggot, including some chunky gudgeon. A pike attacked the deadbait float on a retrieve.

Bad for the float, but good for confidence. I'd say it's a fair bet that the same fish ended up on the bank after intercepting a bait on the drop soon after.

On to the next week and what a change in weather. Some proper overnight frosts and cooler daytime temperatures had me breaking out the proper pike gear and donning full winter attire.

A chilly wind would dominate the session though and I covered a lot of ground across three stretches. On reaching the third of them I was biteless, but at least in a banker swim I felt. An angler downstream came straight over to me, delightfully informing me he'd had nothing at all. He'd also plundered my swim earlier! The one positive was that he told me about his best zander from the stretch, which had slipped into double figures.

Confidence drained, but also buoyed too. I pressed on and as with my previous three sessions I ended up with a single jack. Another disappointing and paltry return and when rain began to settle in, I took the hint and made good my escape. A sound move, as it was a miserly 4C when I reached the car and I'd really had enough. Cold doesn't bother me, but add in wind / rain and you can keep it!

In the title of this post I referred to a new direction. Last Christmas I acquired one of those little video cameras. A cheap but effective bit of kit that can be used for many purposes. A dash cam for the car, or maybe attached to a cycling helmet, or even for security purposes? Being waterproof, for me it was always destined to end up in the river!

I've taken it to a couple of sessions now and I'm busy wrestling with it's constraints and limitations. The first outing saw it sat 6ft down in the margins in the hope of capturing passing fish. I managed four takes covering 45 minutes of "action". All I got was a clump of leaves!

In fairness they were beautifully clear, so at least I know the focus while immersed is acceptable. I don't think Spielberg will be calling on my skills just yet though. I'll keep pursuing this little diversion though when conditions permit.

Finally, we've also had some much needed rain this week. The Avon has risen a few inches and hopefully taken on a bit of colour too. Just maybe, this weekend will see the river bang on for once...

Monday, 26 September 2016

Supersub Scores

Let's kick off with the previous week's barren session. With time limited I was up early to be on the bank for first light. The plan was to catch chub or barbel, with perch as a back up should I need it. 

None were caught. Just a roach and a dace to worm, the latter of which was mangled by a pike, but lived to tell the tale. With pike also showing their presence on the next peg I got the impression that anything bite sized was justifiably nervous in the gin clear water. Good signs for the upcoming predator season I guess. A kiss of death for this session though. 

Fast forward a week and I had given up hope of getting out. With a ton of work to do at home I convinced myself that I'd be confined to base. I did manage to hijack a trip to the shops to grab a few deadbaits - just in case things fell into place.

I think my wife knew that I'd just sealed the deal. Not that she minds, or at least I don't think she does! She knows that all work and no fishing is generally a recipe for a grumpy hubby. Much better for all if I'm allowed my little weekly fix.

So, sometime gone 3pm I made the call and hastily put some gear together. A mile down the road and it was a case of about turn. No scales! Can't tempt fate by risking a session without them, particularly as I was on a zander hunt and literally anything would be a pb.

I headed for an area of the Avon that has thrown up a few zeds recently. With no preparation time I had to go with my light fun sized set up, which was geared up with my standard pike end tackle. No time to break out the new hooks I'd recently bought for zander on a recommendation. I'd actually forgotten to pack them in the rush to get out!

Out with a roach deadbait, following the often suggested theory that they prefer coarse baits. Call me sceptical but in the six years I've been predator fishing the Avon, I'd never seen a zander. Dozens of pike and even a chub and perch, but never a zander.

So it was no surprise when the first fish to show up was a jack. Nice to get my net wet, but not what I was after.

A move was made upstream but the shallower peg didn't fill me with confidence with the clear water. It wasn't long before I got twitchy and I was soon settling down into my third and last chance swim.

Searching around the swim (I don't like leaving baits static for too long) I eventually got a strange tap on the float that pricked my attention. It couldn't be could it? Then nothing. I began to write it off as debris hitting the line but after about a minute the float began to pull steadily away.

Expecting another jack, my whole outlook changed when a silvery body emerged from the depths. Praying the hooks would hold I quickly ushered it into the ample net. Get in!

OK, let's be clear - it's only a bog standard schoolie, but for me it's new territory. Just 2lb 15oz, but it counts for my challenge scorecard following my late substitution and is a pb. Just got to find one double the size before March now!

I lost a small jack at the death, but a few minutes earlier I had a spookily similar bite to the zander one. A tap, nothing, then a proper take. This was a more serious fish though, staying low and feeling heavy. Cue hook pull! Maybe I do need to break out those special hooks next time?

It's a pleasant diversion from pike and I know I'm going to be hooked now. There's every chance a low double figure fish could be in residence on the stretch, so I might be giving the zeds a bit more attention now. I hope it's not another six year wait....

The latest scores for my 7 species river challenge are :

Barbel (11lb 1oz) - 110.63%
Bream (8lb 2oz) - 101.36%
Carp (8lb 0oz) - 80%
Perch (1lb 6oz) - 45.83%
Chub (3lb 4oz) - 65%
Zander (2lb 15oz) - 48.96%
Pike - 0%
Total - 451.98 (Target 700)

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Pleasure and Pain

Three of us headed back to the Wye for one of our away weekends. Always highly anticipated affairs, tackled with abundant enthusiasm. Past failures, of which there are many, are always banished into distant memory.

The Wye is a cracking river. No doubt about that. Prolific and tough in equal measures though. Bag yourself a certain known peg on the stretch we fish and you're pretty much guaranteed barbel action. It's actually too easy and is generally reserved by the host for those seeking their first barbel thrill.

Everywhere else on the stretch is generally tough going, particularly if you don't get conditions in your favour. And once again they weren't! Low and gin clear. 

I made a right hash of day one. For the entire morning I'd built up a bed of bait mid-river, but nothing was happening. It was only when the sun poked out briefly and I stood up high on the bank, that I could see my error. The river was incredibly shallow right out to half way. I felt I needed to be half as far out again.

The switch proved to be an instant hit. Not for me though, but for Brian on the next peg who'd also decided to go for a longer chuck. A barbel of 5lb+ was later joined by one of 7lb 6oz. The latter almost resulting in the garrotting of some female canoeists who turned up at an inopportune moment. Fortunately they were polite and took the advice to change course, while the barbel was retrieved.

Destined to see my net a day later!
At the back end of the day I eventually bagged one myself. A fish of 7lb 11oz. Charlie, furthest upstream, managed a couple of juveniles.

The weather had been wet for much of the day and a final soaking just around packing up time, pretty much summed it up. In fairness we were happy that for once we'd all had barbel on day one. We retired to the pub.

Day two kicked off with a 5-30am rude awakening. Not an alarm call, but Charlie over-reaching and falling out of his bed head first into the side of my bed! Travelodge rooms are cosy if nothing else!

The weather was better and after much pondering and dithering (I accept much of the blame for that!), we plumped for the same area, with me and Charlie switching swims. An early Barbel for me proved to be false hope and no more were seen all day. It was actually one of the fish seen a day earlier - the 7lb 6oz fish caught by Brian (it had a distinctive well healed scar).

Blanks were reported along most of the length and even the banker peg had only thrown up one fish. Tough going.

I'll return of course. It's too nice a place to simply walk away from. A rest and a change is probably required though, as we've suffered many a beating down there now. I'm investigating options on the Trent for a future weekender. An autumn day trip to suss it out is on the cards.

Back locally, I planned a short evening Anker trip in a last desperate bid to break my river tench duck for the season. While de-barbelising my gear to an altogether lighter approach, I stumbled on an unlabelled rod tube. I thought it was a 3 piece float rod that I rarely use, but instead it was a brand new general purpose rod I'd forgotten all about.

It's nothing special, but I bought it a while back purely because it has a screw thread at the top for taking a swing tip. It's a method I'd never tried before and although a little old hat and unfashionable, I just fancied trying it. 

Looks broken?
Firstly, I can see why quiver tips are more popular, but in all honesty I found the swing tip to be OK. The sensitivity is where it scores highest. I broke my swinging duck with a big drop back bite. Not a tench, but one of the many old warrior slabs that inhabit the stretch. This one had just one eye and was about average stamp at 6lb 4oz.

I chopped and changed methods but couldn't entice anything else of note. Just a few roach and perch. A very frustrating session actually, as I'd baited up fairly heavily and had the fish fizzing over the feed.

With Autumn now upon us, things should hopefully start to pick up on the river. After last year's heavily curtailed season, I won't make the mistake of leaving it too long to break out the predator gear. 

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Summer Catch Up

It's good to be back in the land of blog again after a challenging period for me. My focus changed a few months ago when i strolled into my local hospital for what I hoped would be a routine referral. I left with my tail between my legs, with a concerned consultant insisting I needed swift surgery. A double whammy too, as I was off work at the time purely to do some fishing!

Taking his advice, the next day's fishing was cancelled in favour of a biopsy on my right wrist. Not part of my early season plans, but well worth it as it turned out. Three weeks later I returned to hospital to discover that the bit they removed from me was cancerous - a malignant melanoma. A nasty life changing little bugger if left to spread.

The good news was that it appeared to be isolated and hadn't spread to the parts of the body I really didn't want it to reach. More surgery was ordered on my wrist, just to be absolutely sure nothing was still lurking.

I'm pleased to say that the results of the second operation came back all clear. A massive relief. I have follow ups for a year and a lifetime on heightened alert, but that's no bad thing though. It's been a real wake up call and I'm so glad I acted when I did.

The cancer was contained in a mole that had begun to grow in size, the extent of which I could clearly see from old fishing photos going back to 2010.

If you're prone to moles (I have loads!) do yourself a favour and read about their warning signs on the NHS website.

Understandably my fishing was curtailed a little, but I've had my share of sessions. Results have been varied during a period which has seen the rivers running low and clear. Barbel and chub have been hard to come by for me. Rather than struggle on in pursuit of them, after a few miserable failed sessions I took the hint and decided to try for other target species. 

A session on the Anker saw me taking a thorough battering from the pike. I tried three different swims and had them queuing up each time to take fish on the way in or way out. At one point I had two sat right in front of me, waiting for me to supply their next free meal! I quit early.

Back on the Avon I searched out some new deep water to trial. I was hoping to find some bream, but mainly caught small perch. It all changed when the float buried and as I struck into it, line began to peel off the reel. Before I knew it the fish was snagged in far bank lilies. 

Using only a 3lb bottom I couldn't go mad, but I cranked up the pressure and managed to coax it out. It then kited back across the river and snagged again in near bank lilies! More careful pressure saw it eventually freed again and I could see it was a carp. I quickly got top side of it and banked myself only my fourth ever river carp. At bang on 8lb it was actually my best from a river and a decent looker too. Not quite my double figure target, but heading in the right direction - if a little lucky!

Next session I went back to see if I could find a bigger sample, but bombed out miserably. With a few minutes to spare after I'd packed up I took a walk upstream. Just a few pegs from where I was fishing I found myself staring at huge shoal of grazing bream. Maybe 300lbs of them split across 2 pegs. Just taunting me! The picture only captured part of the shoal.

I've also been down to Somerset to sample life on the levels. Plenty of fish around as ever, although two of the three sessions (on the King's Sedgemoor Drain) didn't yield much by way of quality. The most notable fish was an 8oz silver bream - a personal best as it happens.

Accompanied by a hound belonging to other family members, we struck up a good rapport. He would sit patiently as long as the rod was horizontal. Any movement of the rod and he would spring into action, offering to land (or more likely eat!) every fish. No fish were harmed, but I had to be on my guard.

The final session saw me battling a strong wind on the River Huntspill. I'd decided to go for quality and fished sweetcorn over a bed of groundbait. For once, things largely went to plan. I had four bream between 4lb 4oz and 5lb 1oz and lost three others to snags /  hook pulls. Several nice rudd and roach to around half a pound also showed in a bag of around 30lb.

The icing on the cake was a surprise hybrid. Not that hybrids are uncommon on this venue, but this was the biggest I'd ever caught at 4lb 2oz.

Back locally, a mixed dabble for tench and zander proved fruitless. Just a jack instead of a zed and something substantial that wasn't likely to be a tench. Best guess is a carp or barbel, but I'll never know, as it beat me up good and proper. All useful knowledge though for when I return more tooled up.

A switch to the Anker in search of tench didn't work either. Well, that's not fully true.  No tinca, but it did throw up a couple of slabs and the biggest was a target achieving pb of 8lb 2oz. Clumsily I managed to delete the photo though during a space saving cull!

The latest scores for my 7 species river challenge are :

Barbel (11lb 1oz) - 110.63%
Bream (8lb 2oz) - 101.36%
Carp (8lb 0oz) - 80%
Perch (1lb 6oz) - 45.83%
Chub (3lb 4oz) - 65%
Tench and Pike - 0%
Total - 403.02 (Target 700)

I've been trying my best to get a tench of any size on the board during these warmer months. It hasn't happened though and is probably unlikely now, as I start to shift my focus in the coming weeks. Without a tench, the challenge is largely dead in the water.

So, to keep things fresh I'm changing it. My game, my rules! I'm going to allow myself one substitute. Tench out, zander in and I'm sticking with the 6lb target. I've only ever caught a handful of very small zander in my life and none by design. Hopefully I can change that and get close to the target.

Now, a little mention to a product that caught my eye in a TV advert recently. It's a magazine based product called Readly. For a monthly subscription of £7.99 you have access to hundreds of online versions of various magazines, including lots of back issues.

The beauty is that there's no long term commitment and you can cancel any time. There's no limit on how much you can download either. You can even use up to 5 devices, so other family members can join in at no extra cost. There's even some sign up deals to get you on board cheaply for a couple of months.

It clearly doesn't cover everything you might want, but for coarse fishermen Angling Times, Angler's Mail and Improve Your Coarse Fishing are available. The normal cost of these alone is around £20 a month. There's other fishing titles available covering other branches of the sport.

The added bonus for me is that it allows me full access to titles I'd never consider buying. I like my cricket for example, but not enough to go buying magazines about it. That's all changed now that I can access them whenever I fancy it.

It also means my lunchtimes at work no longer centre around reading a newspaper full of its own political agendas. Instead it leads me to search out content that's more meaningful or will broaden my horizons. I was amazed at how little The Beano has changed since I was a kid!

That's enough for now. Next up I'll report on my recent Wye trip and a session that saw me dredging up a method consigned to the bin many years ago.