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...