Sunday, 28 February 2016

A Slice of Fortune

Timing and luck can play such an important part in our fishing, as can other external influences. This weekend was a perfect demonstration of it for me.

For quite a while I've settled into a home routine that has mostly ruled out Saturday morning fishing. The weekly shop has been taking precedence instead. A few weeks ago that all changed though when my wife booked us a day out at Cheltenham races and the shopping had to be rescheduled.

We took the plunge into online shopping as a one off measure and it was a success. So much so, that we've continued with it each week since. So, with Mr Ocado offloading our goods on Friday evening and the river in great nick, it opened up a Saturday morning window of opportunity.

With the weather having been cool, dry and settled I was really looking forward to some piking. The river level had also dropped down significantly and it looked bang on.

Tackling a new section I decided I'd be as active as possible to maximise my chances - 20 minutes per swim maximum, using 2 deadbait rods and twitching them regularly.

My first swim yielded nothing, but I had unwanted company when an otter showed up in the margin to my right. I just heard it initially, but then it popped up right in front of me and swam off to a far bank bush. Not the best start.

I moved few yards downstream, but couldn't settle and then went down another peg. Absolutely nothing, bar a cormorant that appeared out of nowhere and popped up mid river. No bites and too many unwanted furry and feathered predators, wasn't doing much for my confidence. An hour wasted.

I upped sticks and went several pegs upstream. Out with a smelt and then I began baiting up rod two. A quick glance up and the float was already gone. I thought I'd got the depth setting wrong but the rod tip was banging around, confirming a proper take.

A sharp strike and I was attached to something heavy. It stayed low in the water but didn't give me too much grief. When I raised it up to the surface in front of me, my jaw dropped when I saw how big its head was. One more run and I manoevred it into the net.

It was an immense deep bodied fish and when I lifted if from the water, I knew it was a pb shaker. The digital scales wouldn't settle fully, probably because I was shaking too much! I plumped for the lowest reading and then got a second opinion from my Avons. They agreed on 23lb 13oz and confirmed a new pb for me.

For reference the mat is 38 inches long and the net is the XL version of the Savage Gear folding rubber net.

I lost focus for a while after that, but eventually got back into the groove and managed to nick another one before close of play. A low double of 11lb 14oz. It was trailing several feet of line and the longest trace I've ever seen. The wire trace was split into two parts, joined in middle. Why it was so long and why it had an unnecessary join is anyone's guess.

Whatever hook or hooks were attached to the trace were well down its belly and I couldn't get to them. I cut the trace as low down as possible. Not perfect but at least it went back with less baggage than before.

So there you have it. A great morning for me and it was all down to a racing trip causing a change in shopping habits. Otherwise it would never have happened!

That's my piking done with for the season now. I'll be looking for chub and maybe barbel in the last couple of weeks of the season.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Planning For The Luck Factor

I always like to head out with some kind of a plan for my day's fishing, but being a once a week pleasure angler it can often be quite vague and varied.

Last week saw the pike in stubborn mood and the weather has been odd since then. A day of rain saw the rivers filling right up again beyond comfort. Temperatures plunged too, but then we had a sharp rise again into the weekend and the return of windy conditions.

Luckily the rivers had a chance to recover from the rain and the internet suggested there would be about 10 inches of extra water, which would inevitably be coloured. I'd hatched a plan to give the pike a miss and to concentrate on bream and roach.

I had a swim in mind that's really sheltered when a strong south-westerly is blowing through. The problem is that it's a proper mud fest to get down to in winter. I made my way down with all the grace and sure footedness of an Irishman at the end of a St. Patrick's day session. I stayed upright though!

I settled in and balled in the usual half a dozen cricket ball sized offerings of groundbait. I'd kept them on the same line in a slack area between the main flow and a back eddy. The plan was to put a sleeper rod with pellet / paste (hoping for a bonus fish) to the extreme right edge of the bait. I'd then fish a straight lead over the rest of the bait. A simple enough plan and little to go wrong I thought. Wrong!

Rivers can easily change without warning you. Where it was previously clear, I now found myself being snagged up almost every cast on my preferred line for the straight lead. Something unpleasant must have been deposited during the recent surges of water. I'd already used up my quota of groundbait as I like to get it in place early and leave it to settle.

Things were slipping off plan and I had to make do with fishing just off the left side of my baited area. Not what I wanted, but it was as good as I could get and I had to plug on.

Bites weren't as quick as I expected but I began to pluck a few dace and roach out. All were quite small apart from one roach pushing 12oz that fell to a lobworm on the sleeper rod after I'd ditched the pellet.

Then came the bite I'd been waiting for. A slow take was met with solid thump. The rod arched over and line began peeling off the reel. In no time the fish had reached the far bank and I was fearing another losing battle.

For over 10 minutes I battled hard, knowing I had just a 3lb bottom and a size 14 micro barbed (crushed down) hook. I kept trying to figure out what it was and gradually the suspects began to narrow. Its obvious size ruled most out and left just barbel, carp and pike in the frame.

I made steady ground and finally got a glimpse of a fin. It was a pike, clearly a double and judging by the angle of the line, probably foul hooked. Great!

Knowing that I wasn't dealing with a potential pb barbel or carp I cranked up the pressure as much as I dare on the light set up. After another 5 minutes of straining I got lucky, managing to reverse park the pike first time into a barely adequate net.

The hook was delicately lodged in a fin and was lucky to hold out, having been slightly straightened.

It was a nice clean fish too that had clearly been on the feed. It weighed in at 14lb 9oz and was the best I'd banked this season. Just a shame it wasn't by design! Who needs plans?!

I finally got the plan right and managed a couple of bream before the session ended. Two typical samples that went 4lb 5oz and 4lb 4oz.

Cooler weather is moving in again this week and looks set to linger into next weekend. Critically it sounds likely to remain on the dry side. Hopefully an opportunity to do some proper river piking again if the rivers continue to drop...

Monday, 15 February 2016

Weathering the Storm

It's been a few weeks since my last post and quite honestly it has been a miserable fishing period for me. The odd poor decision has played a part, but the weather has been the main factor.

Three weeks ago I got it all wrong when tackling a new stretch of the Avon that was carrying a touch of extra water. I went for barbel, but it was probably too cold to be ideal for that species. I gave up after a biteless couple of hours and headed upstream to tackle pike. They weren't having any of it either and the first blank of the year was secured.

A week later and the river was too high for comfort, so I headed off to the estate lake for one last attempt before my ticket expired. Three hours of staring at a motionless quiver tip on a cold and windswept lake, sealed my first ever blank at the venue. The snowdrops put on a good show though!

Fast forward a week and the river had dropped nicely by the Friday, but it was all about to go wrong. Saturday was a filthy day and the river received by far its biggest influx of water this season. The Warwick gauge saw a rise of around 5ft in about 24 hours, which scuppered my weekend plans.

I did get some fishing therapy though, courtesy of a visit to Fosters of Birmingham. A recent birthday saw me acquiring some vouchers and I headed over to cash them in. It's a beast of a shop covering two floors and has a huge amount of stock. I had a chair in mind, but I wanted to test it out before buying.

I plumped for a JRC stealth x-lite model which is amazingly light at just over 3kg. This was the key factor for making the switch. I've pimped it up by incorporating some attachments to it and I've bought a bag to transport it. However the job lot now weighs more than my old 5kg chair! In fairness I'm really pleased with the whole package and the bag opens up other transportation options for when I want to do any roving.

On to this week and the rain held off to allow the rivers to recover quite nicely. Just about six inches above normal on the Warwick gauge was the situation facing me come Sunday. I headed out late morning with a two pronged attack. I wanted to go all out for pike, but bottled it in the end. Half a pint of turmeric boosted maggots was the back up in case the pike were absent.

And missing they were. Dace on the straight lead provided some sport, but no sign of the bream I hoped might show up. I retired the lead rod to give the pike more attention, which basically meant upping the twitching rate of the bait.  It eventually paid off when I banked a stubborn fighting low double of 10lb 8oz. Excuse the poor photo as I'd left my camera at home and had to use my phone.

It's a measure of just how poor and fragmented my pike campaign has been this season, that this was my only double so far. It was a good excuse to try out another recent acquisition from Ebay, in the shape of some aptly named Avon scales. Second hand of course, as these well regarded scales are long since out of production.

They are in decent enough nick though and much bigger and sturdier than I'd imagined. Initially the zeroing wheel was jamming, but a quick opening up of the key parts and a little tweak, soon had that resolved. Tests against my digital scales also gave some favourable results with weights matching to within 1oz across a range of weights up to 24lb.

I pressed on in search of more pike and even slopped my way through the mud to my banker swim to improve the odds. I also upped the ante by increasing to two rods. They just weren't having it on this occasion though. That's pike I guess.

I have no idea where next week will take me. I guess the weather will have the deciding vote...