Saturday, 30 December 2017

Early Finish

My fishing year ended in a very tame and unsatisfactory manner. No more need to berate the overly dry conditions. The weather had the final laugh to a very forgettable Autumn campaign. Two planned river sessions cancelled for obvious reasons:

To add to my woes, my long suffering boiler (not a reference to my wife!) finally gave up the ghost in the week before Christmas. No longer cost effective to put back into service, a new one is now being scheduled in. Fortunately we've been able to get hot water via an immersion heater, or it would have really tested our resolve. 

Just one quick session to mention since my last post. It was my traditional Christmas Eve session - just not on Christmas Eve this year! My wife had booked me up for that already with family duties. 

So, a day earlier than normal, I headed off to a decent looking Avon for a dawn start. No excuses, but it proved a difficult nut for me to crack again.

Martin turned up soon after and wasted little time in getting his spool turning. Not the planned ending though as his hooks went skywards and he was left playing a tree! He soon had a jack on the bank though to make amends.

My blank was avoided with my only bite of the session. A jack with an unsightly wound, so I'll spare it from a public appearance on here.

I called it a day at 11am, by which time Martin had upped his count to three, the best one being around double figures. He went on to add a couple more.

I have an extended break this year and I'm hoping it won't see me consigned to decorating throughout. If the river drops to the right level, I'll continue to look for pike and zander. If not, temperatures permitting, I'll definitely open the year with a session on a stillwater that I was saving for Spring.

2018 promises to be an interesting one for me in many ways. Lots of distractions that will potentially interfere with my time on the bank, but I'll certainly be out at every opportunity. My only fishing resolution is to do more of what I didn't do this year! 

I had some good intentions that I didn't follow through on. Quite why I've ignored tench again is just plain daft, given the options I have in my ticket wallet.

Have a good New Year and tight lines in 2018.

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Dominoes and Monkeys

Where to begin?

It's over a month since I last checked in and let's just say that things haven't quite gone to plan. How bad you ask? Let's try a picture clue to sum up my bankside activity...

Hopefully not too cryptic! That's right - 6 (six) consecutive blanks.

Having only ever suffered a maximum of three blanks on the spin before, I really didn't see this lot coming. Granted, conditions haven't been great, the sessions mostly short and I've perhaps been too blinkered in my approach. Still, I expected a little more than zilch.

All were predator sessions in gin clear water. Three were actually completely barren - zero bites. The rest had some bites, but frequently all too tentative. A nudge here, an enquiry there, the odd strike into thin air. Occasionally connecting, but then disconnecting, as hooks are spat back in anger.

The sixth domino was played out on Monday past. A bonus session borne out of the recent snowfall. I'm lucky enough to work in education, where establishments close when the white stuff falls to any reasonable degree.

This was fate I thought. Finally a chance to get a long-standing monkey off my back - a snow pike. Opportunities for snow fishing don't present themselves all that often around these parts, so I needed to choose well. A tried and trusted venue would surely deliver?

You know the outcome of course. Not a sniff. 4+ hours of zero action. Nothing moving anywhere. Dejected, I quit early afternoon and headed home to do a refresh job on the bathroom. Exciting times! Extra dominoes were being contemplated.

Tuesday dawned and confusion reigned. Employer optimism of opening was quashed, but I was summoned to another campus that had beaten the weather. A useless exercise though, as I had no access to the essential tools of my job. A day of pointless time filling and coffee drinking didn't thrill me. I needed out.

After a brief and sensible chat, a mutual agreement was struck up with my boss. Rather than me lingering around and moaning all day,  I'd bugger off quietly and use up some time owed to me. Much better for all concerned. Snow pike take two was now in operation.

Back to the river, but a different stretch. A more public venue and one I've never predator fished before. I just needed a change to rekindle some fresh optimism. It's a venue I've fished occasionally over the years, albeit not for quite a while.

A chilly day at -2C on arrival (although better than the -6C earlier that morning). It didn't rise much either - just tripping around freezing point when I packed in.

I knew a likely area with a mix of depths and features. I'd spend a few hours hopping swims, covering as much variety as possible.

Swim one nearly yielded success just as I was planning a move. A bob of the float on the smelt rig, then a few more indications, before a clear pull away. A strike, slight resistance and then a hook pull followed. Bugger!

I sat it out a while longer than I'd intended, but nothing else showed. Time to find some deeper water that I knew was a few pegs downstream.

Sardine deployed to the left, I then guessed a little conservatively with the smelt rig. The float was around 10 inches out and fully submerged. I reeled in to adjust it and the float fought back!

I must have dropped the smelt bang on the money. I set the hooks and played out the fight. Brisk and thankfully uneventful, I had broken the run of blanks. A snow pike at last and although a long way short of my target, a season's best at 9lb 12oz. Quite a long, lean and clean fish.

Not the perfect trophy shot I'd have wanted, but the snow was very iced up and pretty solid. I wasn't going to risk damaging the fish through self indulgence.

Nothing else for the reminder of session. Just feathered company that's clearly well practised in the art of scrounging from anglers.

Prospects for the weekend are interesting, with some milder air threatening to push in. The cold snow melt (with added grit) currently in the rivers might be the defining factor. Coloured water will be a rare luxury though.

I'd resigned myself to a weekend off, but with the rivers now dropping, I'm tempted to make a last minute change of mind. The gear is ready just in case, as are the dominoes...

Edit - Sunday morning. 6am, phone says it's 1C. River still a little higher than I'd like for the temperature. Significant rain due late morning. England still floundering in the cricket. Not much to get up for.

A lie in and then finishing off the Christmas preparations was the more sensible option. Plenty of time for fishing over an extended festive break for me this year (around family commitments of course!).

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Alternative Fireworks

Finally, as I write this, it's the first evening since mid October that I haven't heard a firework go off. It drives me mad after a while, but I guess that's part of urban life and it's greater concentration of morons. Glad it's all over now.

No danger of me dabbling in any pyrotechnics, so I'd have to make do with whatever entertainment I could conjure up from the Avon this week. My only viable window on Saturday was booted into touch by a BBC weather forecaster. After a crappy week at work and feeling slightly under the weather, I wasn't getting up at dawn for a soaking. Sunday afternoon it was then...

This is where I enjoy the shorter days. The last couple of hours of fishing as the light fades, are so much easier to slot into place for me. I can gently recover from any Saturday alcohol excess without any urgency. Then slope off to get the best of the conditions and be back in plenty of time for an evening meal.

With a little extra water having gone through, I toyed with the idea of a mixed approach with deadbaits and meat. Then I sensibly remembered that I have a habit of screwing up when I do that. I rarely do either method justice. It's often better to focus fully on one approach - a case of knowing my limitations.

Deadbaits were left in the freezer and I reached for my stockpile of meat. I have a habit of buying it in bulk whevener the supermarket drops it to £1 a tin. Chopped into 3/4 inch cubes it's dirt cheap really.  I only used half a tin during the session. The rest ended up going in the freezer.

An old school one trick pony approach, but I have more faith in it than anything else. It's probably because I've never fully got to grips with pellets and boilies - too many choices and flavours for my mind. The only decision here was one rod or two.

I kicked off with two for the first half of the session and very little happened. A couple of sharp bangs on the downstream rod, but nothing I could connect with. With the sun beating down and the water still quite clear, I wasn't expecting much early afternoon.

A kingfisher kept me amused though, popping in directly opposite to nick some small fry. Great fun watching it dipping down off the willows.

poor photo but it was gone in a flash

As the sun started to dip behind the trees, I retired the upstream rod. I just wanted to give full focus to what I considered to be the best part of the swim. Any half chance and I wanted to be in contact right away, so the freespool was now left off. Clutch also slackened off slightly more than usual.

Firework update - spoke too soon. Bastards going off in the distance right now! I digress...

Radio on and City 2-0 up in the cup - for once not making a meal of non-league opposition. Fishing still quiet, so a quick look at the internet to check other sport news and then wham - fireworks begin! The rod hoops over and I simply have to grab the butt and toss the phone to one side.

The clutch kicked in and covered the initial run, but the backwind was soon in place to help out. As I stopped the fish a good way downstream, it went eerily solid for a few seconds. I thought I'd allowed it too much room to manoeuvre, but it then kicked out again. Phew!

It then all went to plan and I even remembered to keep it clear of an unseen near bank snag that cost me a good fish last season. Into the net it went after a fair old scrap and I felt it was my first double of the season. I gave it a good rest and popped it on the mat.  It looked even better now, with a solid front end. Clearly feeding well. The scales went 11lb 1oz.

Very pleased with that result after a mostly poor September / October. A few more challenge points and in terms of barbel, it's around the mark I'd hoped for.

Zander and chub are probably my next targets, along with pike. I might even go in search of roach if the conditions drop right. Optimism is returning, soon to be suppressed no doubt!

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Predator Kick Off

I finally caved in and went for my first proper predator session of the season. I have dabbled in recent times on occasions, but this was my first dual rod effort with my main gear.

With the wind still blowing through a little, I headed for a reasonably sheltered part of the Avon. The clocks went back overnight and I opted to ignore the extra hour in bed. I was bankside at 6-30am.

Tactics were float fished deadbaits, alternating between smelt, sardine and roach, across a handful of swims. I had the place to myself, so I could hop pegs at will - just how I like it.

When it comes to pike, smelt is definitely my first choice deadbait bar none. The distinctive cucumber smell conjures up an air of a confidence that other baits can't quite match. It's a definite get out of jail card on rock hard days.

Lamprey, with its blood oozing quality, is a close second. It's quite expensive though and often shorter in supply these days. More of a luxury bait for me now, but I'll break into my meagre supplies when I'm on some of my longer sessions later in the year.

Roach is next in the pecking order and my main attack for zander. I've just stocked up on these and will be looking to perfect my approach in the coming months. I'm still quite new to this zander lark and have plenty to learn.

Sardine is another alternative I use regularly. A soft oily bait, it offers up a good sized mouthful at a very low cost (when bought from the fishmonger). Again, I've just stocked up on a few of these.

Sprats are very bleak like and always worth a go. Very cost effective too and these small baits can often throw up a surprise.

Back to the session and with clear water I expected a tough session. The river didn't disappoint! A blank in swim one and just a single small jack from the next three to a smelt offering. Tough going.

A return to the banker swim and a twitch induced take saw me battling something beyond jack size. A powerful initial run saw me having to apply the brakes to keep it from a big snag.

Almost daring to tail walk, it luckily turned and then kited back towards me. Then it all went a bit stupid as it ploughed straight beneath the staging in front of me. Seemingly disorientated, it turned around and was cornered by my now waiting net. What looked set to be a sporting battle, became all a bit anticlimactic. Not that I cared though!

It was a lovely clean unmarked fish and I thought maybe a scraper double. It was close, but the Avons confirmed it was a couple of light snacks short at 9lb 11oz. Funny how the lack of any size reference (other than the mat itself) makes the fish look small.

A few token challenge points to add to my tally. I'd like something double the size, but patience is required. It's just a case of wading through the singles and waiting my turn. Time is on my side for now.

Rain is still desperately needed, but I can't see anything significant in the forecast. Not sure where I'll head next. This clear water is proving challenging.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

October Mixed Bag

In keeping with recent fortunes, October hasn't managed to revive my flagging Blogger's Challenge campaign. Not a single point added for several weeks now. The floodgates will surely open soon. I can but dream...

With rivers running as clear as gin for most of the season, it seems to have been tougher than ever this year. Low light conditions often help to offset this, but it's rare for me to be able to make best use of dusk and dawn prior to the clocks changing. That all changes soon though and I'm looking forward to better prospects.

A few sessions to catch up on, beginning with the obligatory Anker blanker. Little to expand on really other than two tentative bites on the float. Both so quick that they didn't even result in a strike. Another grueller, but thankfully only a short one which spared me somewhat.

Next up was the customary Autumn away trip with Brian and Charlie. With the Wye being rested again, we returned to the Trent with plenty of hope.

Returns were incredibly poor though. Scratching around on light gear seemed to be the only way to get any action. Charlie was the most patient with that approach, but for scant reward really. I caught only a few ounces of fish across both days. A small jack for Brian was the biggest fish.

Difficult, windy and at times wet conditions, didn't help on day one. A gin clear river wasn't good either. Cormorants around in good numbers too. Night fishing would probably be the way to go in all honesty, although that's not allowed on the section we fished.

I sat it out for long periods hoping for a big barbel. but nothing doing. A nice enough location, but a rethink on venues and more homework is needed before a return to the Trent is attempted.

Back home and an invitation to do some more Anker blanking (with Martin) was accepted. The only difference was that I actually avoided the dreaded B word. A single jack saved me from another wipeout. Nothing doing on the bream rod though. Martin had a couple of jacks.

Next up was another away trip away to a venue that I've fancied for a while - the Kennet in rural Berkshire. The purpose quite simply to break my grayling duck.

I'd never caught one before you see. The Warwickshire rivers I frequent aren't exactly abound with grayling. Seeking rocking horse dung would be a more fruitful pastime I suspect. Going beyond the usual borders is the best option.

Charlie accompanied me and we set off in eager anticipation of bagging a few silver ladies. The first area produced nothing, but a swift move by Charlie saw a bend in his rod. A grayling no less. The first I'd ever seen in the flesh.


Great news and despite Charlie's generous offer to gate-crash his swim, I declined. I suggested we keep it in the bank for later and that he should milk it for now. So he did! Another grayling followed, before a succession of hard battling brownies bullied their way in. Frantic stuff at times.

Meanwhile I was royally screwing up in pretty much every swim I tried. Failure after failure was just made all the more laughable as Charlie followed my steps. I passed over a long glide in favour of an enticing carrier weirpool. Nothing for me, but behind me goldenballs was returning another grayling! He was clearly reading it and presenting the bait far better than me.

Lunch was called and it gave me a much needed time-out to regroup. Quite nice to be able to sit down in the shadow of the fisherman's hut, taking in the surroundings. All very civilised.

Post lunch, plan B was put straight into action. I'd take a punt on the banker grayling peg. Instant result - but from a brownie. And a few more would follow...

All in the 1lb-2lb range. Great fun on trotting gear, but their thrashing around wasn't helpful with the quest to find me a grayling. Several swims were fished, but try as I did, I failed to catch what I went for. Dace, chub and roach were among other species caught. Charlie had good numbers of trout (16 I think to my 7!), along with half a dozen grayling. An enjoyable experience, even if I was soundly beaten.

To really rub my nose in the brown stuff though, I was reading an online copy of the Angler's Mail at work this week. What did I see before me? Duncan Charman sat on one of the exact same pegs I had fished, catching a grayling nudging towards 2lb. Jammy bastard! A real Jim Bowen Bullseye moment - look at what you could have won!

Very interesting to read the article though and it seems like we didn't fish many of the hotspots. A lack of time limited us to searching  one half of the fishery only. A return visit to explore the remainder is definitely on the cards.

Back locally I had a few hours to spare on Sunday. I wanted to try the Stour for a change, but with the wind howling, I opted for a peg with shelter down the Avon closer to home. A zander deadbait rod was deployed, alongside a legered meat offering.

Zilch to the deadbaits, but a single mental take on the meat saved the blank. A spirited fight kicked off and I thought the fish would snag me, but luckily it played ball. I was hoping for carp, but it proved to be the expected barbel - 8lb 3oz.

With the weather refusing to cool down properly and with no major downpours to colour the rivers either, it's still a little frustrating. The clocks going back this weekend and the ever shortening days will hopefully help my prospects soon though.

Homemade day/night predator float update - it passed the first two daylight trials. Sadly too much time spent above the surface though! Dusk / evening trials await next....

It's nothing to get overly excited about, but I just prefer using homemade floats. For several years now I've rarely used anything shop bought. I'd never made any predator floats before though, so this is hopefully a welcome expansion to my collection.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Enough is Enough

I struggle to blog about every session. The usual pattern is to suffer a few average to poor sessions and then hit the blog when something better shows up.

At this time of year I'd normally expect some easy pickings, with regular posting. The truth is that I've hit a brick wall and received a few slaps in the face from various venues in recent weeks.

In a bid to break the curse, I've decided to get my catch up out of the way. Better times around the corner for sure... I hope! So, where have I been during mid to late summer?

Session 1a - River Windrush

A spot I'd fished previously a couple of years ago in the last week of the season with water on. Chub, trout and the troublesome crayfish were taken on that occasion. I was keen seen what the summer would hold.

The answer was more bloody crayfish! After a run of small dace, perch and gudgeon, the red clawed blighters took over. The bites were so distinctive that the outcome became apparent very quickly. A day of pleasant float fishing ruined quite early. I lost patience and despite having coughed up for a day ticket, I threw the towel in early.

Session 1b - Avon

To salvage something from the day I headed back for a couple of hours on the Avon. A park by your peg section was chosen for convenience and I reacquainted myself with a peg I haven't fished for over 10 years.

I was struggling to run the float through my preferred area properly, due to streamer weed. I sensed fish were there though and a switch to a light lead saw plenty of perch averaging around 6oz taken. An enjoyable couple of hours and nice to be back on old ground.

Session 2 - Avon

Another stab at locating a carp, fully expecting I'd sneak a chub or barbel again. I called it totally wrong and completely blanked.

Session 3 - Bridgwater / Taunton Canal

First of two short holiday sessions. Plenty of small fish around, but the tench I was hoping for didn't show up. Mostly small rudd on corn.

Session 4 - River Huntspill

Settled in one of my all time favourite pegs. Not just because it consistently produces from year to year - it's just full of character and so relaxing. Set well off the beaten track, it's everything I like in a peg.

I gave it a good helping of groundbait and went over the top with a small lead and sweetcorn on a size 12. It was a bite a chuck from the off with small rudd and roach mainly, to 6oz. A nice bream of 4lb 5oz broke the run and I thought I was in for a big bag.

The floodgates then certainly opened - quite literally. That's part of the appeal of this river. It's a key flood relief channel for the area and the level is artificially controlled by pumping water in and out, as required. On this occasion the water was being pumped in and the level quickly started to rise. The fishing wasn't affected though.

Not too many bigger fish though, but a bonus pike of 6lb boosted the total to around 20lb. It should have been more like 25lb but I lost a decent bream due to a severed hooklength. I failed to spot damage caused by the earlier pike and paid the price. Careless on my part really. A short but enjoyable effort though.

Session 5 - Avon

Back on home turf I was down the Avon again. A multi purpose visit to do a spot of overdue bank clearing, a little fishing and also to chew the fat with Martin. Right on cue he plucked a jack from his swim on arrival. A few others followed before he left too.

I had some sport on the stick - mostly dace, but with the odd small chub of around 4oz thrown in. The inevitable pike attack wasn't far away and that switched my focus for the rest of the session. It didn't prove easy on the deadbaits, but I managed a couple of jacks.

Session 6 - Avon

I made use of a short Saturday afternoon window, that was a late call. With no time for preparation I grabbed the fun outfit and tried my luck on the deeper water stretch. A blank in two pegs, although I had a dropped take that looked a shade zander like. A jack at the death while packing up in the final peg.

Session 7 - Anker

Tried for bream or perch for about 4 hours. Blanked royally. Miserable stuff.

Session 8 - Avon

Some gardening duties to kick off this visit to help get the section up to scratch again, before catching up with Mick. Tough going on deadbaits, but I managed 3 jacks - the final one being another last cast mid pack up job. A real athlete of a fish too, treating me to some spectacular tail walking. The best of the bunch, but only 6lb 10oz. Purely weighed to stop the rot of non points scoring fish for the challenge.

Session 9 - Anker

The first of a rare triple header weekend. A Friday evening catch up with Martin. He banked a jack just as I arrived. Plenty of misguided hope was extracted from that!

Fishing for bream/ perch  and pike/zander across 2 rods, I blanked for the 3 hours into dusk and just beyond. It remains a quirky venue, but there's quality fish present if you can get it right (or just drop lucky!).

It also reminded me that I need to sort out some proper indicator gear for these murky sessions. Some useful pointers from Martin's gear got my brain into action - more to come on that.

Session 10 - Avon

Fished for carp, with a back up of chub / barbel. Failed on all three counts. Had some maggots though and switched to the float to salvage something. Plenty of perch, mainly around 6oz from under the rod tip. Best one was nudging a pound. A couple of eels too. A fun couple of hours which was a throwback to years gone by.

Session 11 - Avon

Afternoon into dusk and I really fancied a barbel would show. One eel and lots of frustrating taps on the tips was the sum total going into the last hour. I retired one rod to give maximum effort on the main area. I wanted to hit any half chance.

Another last cast scenario saw me connect with a fish, but it was no barbel. Actually I don't know that for sure, but it wasn't huge and it simply kited into the nearside cover and shed the hook. All very chubby if you ask me. Par for the course!

And that's everything up to date again.

As I write this i have a handmade prototype (crackpot?!)  twilight predator float undergoing a final paint job. Looking forward to giving it a trial run soon. I'll reveal the outcome in a future post.

Hopefully it won't take another 7 weeks before I check in again. I figure I'm owed an October change of fortune.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Unexpected Progress

A few sessions to catch up with here, kicking off with a weekend trip to the Trent with the usual crew. This was a change from the normal Wye Valley trips that we've been doing for several years now. The Wye still remains in scope for the future, but it was time for a change.

Having done a little homework beforehand, we knew certain areas to steer clear of, due to their popularity. If you haven't been to the Trent, you'll soon discover that it's very accessible. Lots of park on your peg options, both through cheap day tickets and readily available club books. Night fishing is easy to find too, which just adds to the attraction for many. The sheer volume of anglers on certain waters is something I'm just not used to seeing in my Warwickshire comfort zone.

A plan was hatched to avoid the masses. Day 1 on a tidal stretch that only allows season ticket holders to night fish, with day 2 on a club water that doesn't allow any night fishing and isn't fished from the opposite bank either.

The tidal stretch was a bit wilder than expected. Finding three pegs together was a tough one. Overnight anglers had nailed down an area on a sweeping bend at the bottom of the stretch and we eventually found an upstream area that suited us - after I'd done a spot of gardening to clear an extra peg.

Tidal rivers are alien to me and it was a little difficult to read. With high tide due mid afternoon, I was trying to wait for low tide before my feeding assault. In the end my patience ran out and I went too early. The river continued dropping for a further 3 hours!

For 25 minutes solid I repeatedly cast out a beefy 3oz feeder full of groundbait laden with pellets and caster. A good 40+ offerings in total and definitely the single biggest arm aching barrage I've ever done on a river. It was the only way to guarantee that I was feeding vaguely the right area though, in what was a deep and powerful swim.

The fishing was tough though, with no barbel or chub showing for any of us. Just a smattering of silver fish to maggot, although I had a couple of bonus fish which I'd like to think were courtesy of my heavy feeding.

Both were bream. One of 2lb 8oz and a better one of 5lb 10oz which was foul hooked. An absolute beast to land too. If you've ever foul hooked a bream before on lightish gear, you'll know that they can pack a punch. Initially I had no idea what it was, other than not a barbel. In case it was a big chub, I had to take it steadily.

Only when I got it under my feet did I see it was a slab. A real pain to land in the powerful current and every time it turned side on, it would just get washed away. The most trouble ever from a bream!

Day 2 didn't throw up much. Charlie persevered with the float and had his share of silver fish. I wasn't in the mood to battle it and spent more time on bigger baits. Just the one suspected barbel encounter that resulted in a hook pull shortly into the battle.

Brian nicked a lure caught pike at the death to win the bragging rights for biggest fish of the weekend. No prize for that though, as it wasn't part of our side bets.

Species were tied between me and Charlie on 5 each, so that now rolls over to next time. Perhaps a shade unlucky though, as he actually hooked two others. The only problem being that one (pike) attacked the other (bootlace eel) on the retrieve and bit him off!

I took the bream pot, with the chub and barbel pots also rolling over to the Autumn instalment. Although it wasn't productive this time, I think we learned a lot and the potential for very big fish is plain to see. We'll all be better prepared next time.

Back locally and with a week off work, I had to revise Monday's plan due to a sore eye. Eventually I settled for a couple of hours on the canal late afternoon, but it wasn't easy. Just a few small roach and skimmers.

Next up I headed back to the Anker to see if I could improve on my bream tally. Three people there on arrival and that quickly ruled out my first and second choice pegs. Turning to the third choice I gave it the usual positive helping of groundbait across both margins. A float fished bunch of maggots would be the tactic.

Cutting to the chase, after almost 5 hours I was biteless. With boredom setting in, I decided on a 2pm cut off, so I could get home and at least do something productive with the day.

1-40pm and the float finally starts to dance. A tentative bite and I wasn't going to risk rushing it. Finally it dipped under and I hit it. A good bend in the rod suggested it might be a bream, but then it started jagging a little. A big perch at last I thought, but then it went jag, jag, jag in a way that can only mean one thing...

Eel - and a decent one too. A fact I know, because I voluntarily began supplying commentary to anyone who might be within listening range. Not my normal style unless I know those around me, but it was just spontaneous excitement.

The old guy from a peg upstream was equally surprised though, claiming it to be "the biggest ****ing eel I've ever seen!". He helped with the netting and I was glad of the assistance.

With a pb of 1lb 9oz, that was easily about to be eclipsed. 3lb 5oz was the verdict. It's not going to set the eel world alight, but it's a special catch for me. Still no match though for the canal caught leviathon that George Burton caught in the last blogger's challenge. Just feels weird when it scores less than a chub of the same size, which are infinitely easier to find. There's no justice!

Must fnd a better photographer next time!

I called it a day there and then, figuring I wasn't going to top that.

Next up was a day where I was given free licence. My wife was working from home and she wanted me out of the way to avoid distractions. That's a brief I can happily work to.

Making her feel a little guilty due to throwing me at the mercy of the wind and rain, I bid her farewell and set off with a double ration of food and drink supplies. We didn't rendezvous again until 14 hours later. I take my duty to vacate the premises seriously!

It proved to be an odd and enjoyable day. I'd planned to split the day in two, meeting up with Charlie early afternoon to show him a different stretch. As it happened, I got settled in my first area and spent the day there.

After catching plenty of perch on the stick float, along with the odd skimmer, dace and roach, I decided to put out a sleeper rod for carp. I'd seen a low double taken from the area last year and it made sense to increase my options.

10 minutes later and the sleeper rod was off - freespool reel doing its job perfectly. The problem was that it wasn't the intended carp, but a barbel with a preference for slack water. An immensely powerful fight followed, but I eventually won out. A fish of 7lb 10oz. I gave it plenty of time in the net before doing anything and it recovered fine.

Second cast with the sleeper and the outcome was almost identical. A brief wait saw another barbel in the net. 7lb 9oz this time, but a less fierce fight.

Third cast saw another bite. Eel! It couldn't last could it? Charlie had turned up by now, although his navigational skills had failed him slightly. A missed gate saw him doing a spot of orienteering and ditch wading to reach my peg.

Things slowed down considerably over the next few hours, but Charlie had taken a couple of chub to 3lb 11oz and lost a barbel that nearly cost him his rod too.

We agreed on an 8-45 finish and it was closing in on that as I began to retire my float rod. The meat rod screamed into action again and another intense battle kicked off. A hard but incident free encounter saw me bank the best barbel of the session at 9lb 2oz.

It's certainly taught me a lesson. Of all the pegs available, it's one that I would have put towards the bottom of my list in terms of barbel potential. There are many other reliable well known pegs that consistently produce.

It may have been pure luck on this occasion, but maybe there's some logic to be found. The fish must patrol through the area from time to time and maybe they were caught off guard by someone targeting them in an unfashionable peg? The fact I was targeting carp is something I'll conveniently overlook. You can't beat a bit of luck?!

Sunday, 23 July 2017

The Story So Far

A barren period in terms of posts from me and not unlike much of my fishing.

Rewind back to the start of the season and my customary week off work coincided with some stinking hot weather. With low and clear rivers, coupled with working around wife related drop off / pick ups, it made for me hitting the bank in less than ideal conditions.

Four different rivers were tackled in that week. The Stour (Warks) kicked it off on the 16th. Wanting to avoid the masses, I opted for this small, but often deceptive, waterway. It's now back on limits to me due to an extra ticket this year.

I had the three meadows to myself on arrival and only met one other angler all day. Just what I wanted for a gentle season opener. Plenty of fish around, but all small. A couple of chub up to 12oz were the only fish to get the landing net wet. I'll be back later in the season and given the good head of prey fish, I think some of the many deep holes will have to be explored for pike.

The attraction of quality bream on the Anker lured me in for a couple of days. A bad mistake in the conditions though and I bombed out miserably. A complete blank one day and just a few small fish the next, along with a pound perch.

A day exploring above and below an Avon weirpool yielded more small fish - mostly perch. A bonus ruffe popped in an appearance though, which ticked off a target for the Blogger's Challenge. At 1.35oz it's hardly a specimen, but in terms of points it's similar to a pound roach. Doesn't seem quite so silly when you look at it like that!

Fishing that day with Brian, we cooked up a plan there and then for the following day. A long overdue trip to check out the Trent for a future jolly, was given the green light.

The stretch we headed for was an easy access one that I'd found on the internet. What I didn't bargain for was the sheer popularity of the place. Utterly rammed! I saw more people fishing in one day than I have sometimes seen in an entire season!

A world far removed from the one I normally operate in. Just finding a couple of spare pegs together on a one mile stretch was pretty tricky. With no fancy rod pod / alarms and only licenced for 2 rods, I was clearly an under-gunned outsider here.

Slim pickings on the fishing too, but I quite enjoyed the challenge of the big river. Just a dozen or so small fish, but expectations were low given the conditions and available time. The key was to get as much information about the area as possible. Hotel, pub and food outlets all checked out!

It's pretty clear we'll fish elsewhere next time. When the bailiff advises you to turn up on Thursday to secure weekend pegs, I know it's not for me!

A couple of other Avon trips produced just small fish and pike were proving a pain. I suffered a bite off before managing to land a small jack one evening. On release it regurgitated a small and now deceased dace. The casualty was scooped up and now resides in my garage freezer, destined to find its way back into a bigger predator's jaws come Autumn.

A couple of very short opportune evening trips targeting barbel, threw up the odd chub to just over 3lb, along with an obligatory meat loving eel. Just one whisker related encounter and I came off second best to a snag on that occasion.

Two consecutive weekends were wiped out by a holiday, which brings me right up to this weekend. Itching to get out and lacking in drinking buddies, put Saturday afternoon / evening in the frame. Plenty of rain forecast, but with recent extra water in the systems, I still fancied it.

I opted for the Anker for ease of access and was pleased to find the place empty. Bagging my preferred peg I gave it my standard approach for the bream. Ten balls of groundbait laden with hemp and molasses, split between right and left hand margins into 9.5ft of water (was 8ft on last visit!).

Tactics were float fished maggots (4 on a size 12 to 3lb) just tripping the very weedy bottom about 10ft out. The large hook and bait seems to help avoid the plentiful small roach, but the first taker was just that - lucky too, as a pike nearly nailed it!

Next up about an hour in, it wasn't a roach though and I was connected to the intended target. A bland fight saw a quick surrender and I'd got a good challenge points scorer in the net. I thought 7lb and was pretty damn close at 6lb 15oz.

Bites were infrequent, but by continually switching lines from right to left margin. I banked the odd one here and there. Most notable were a perch of 1lb 6oz which was quickly followed by a real scrapper that I thought was a certain two pounder. It was just shy at 1lb 15oz. More good points though.

Rain blighted the entire session with no letting up at any time. Bites petered out too and I began breaking things down as the darkness started to set in. With everything but umbrella and landing net packed away I had one last chuck.

Switching to the left margin, I could barely see the float tip. Then within seconds, I really couldn't see the tip. A flick of the rod and I was carefully playing another decent slab. A bit more fight in this one, but it rolled nicely into the net first time.

Certainly bigger than the earlier one, I dared to think it might make 8lb. My worst guess of the night though, as it fell short at 7lb 8oz.

It was nice to finally get something right, in what has been a pretty quiet start to my season. Lots of time left though and plenty more fish to target.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Clouds​ With Silver Linings​

Back to the canal to search out some early​ points to kick-start my Blogger's Challenge campaign. With the rivers out of action it gives me a good excuse to sample waters I wouldn't normally get out of bed for. That's not to decry them - it's just horses for courses really.

This is often the fun part of the challenge for me, where points can flow freely and I target anything and everything. Armed with a couple of straight lead rods, a helping of groundbait and half a pint of red maggots, this was a simple catch all session.

I kicked off with both rods, but in the end I had to scale back to just one. Bites were proving hard to hit and I felt one rod fished with full attention was better than trying to juggle my focus across two.

It proved to be a steady session, mainly built around skimmers of just over a pound. I only​ managed one fish north of two pounds - 2lb 8oz being the best of the bunch.

The stand out fish was a silver bream of 14oz. A personal best and a few tidy points for that.

Although generally a laid back character, I still have a competitive instinct lurking within - even when pleasure fishing. Totting up the weight as I went along, I'd got myself to 8lb 8.5oz. Time was nearly up, so I gave myself an extra half hour to reach double figures.

I thought I'd cracked it when I hooked another skimmer, but it only saw me up to 9lb 12.5oz.  Beyond time, I gave myself a last cast to get the job done.

Anyway several last casts later and deep into overtime, the tip rattled and I was in. Bloody typical though - a tiny perch of 2.5oz to take me to a tantalising 9lb 15oz. I graciously called it a day and figured it wasn't meant to be.

More canal points in four hours though than I earned in the whole of the last challenge. Moreover, quite enjoyable canal sport again.

Sometimes opportunity knocks and you have to grab it. Quite often it's these unplanned spur of the moment decisions that deliver special moments.

I was due in hospital for a spot of day surgery, which was also set to knock out any hope of weekend fishing or alcohol consumption! To cut to the chase, it got called off at the last moment and my mind was quickly working out how to salvage some fishing out of it.

My wife was due at the gym that evening and I hatched a plan to get a lift to the canal. I'd only have about 1.25 hours of actual fishing, but that was 1.25 more than I'd have had normally. With just a handful of maggots and a small offering of groundbait, I headed off with a single rod.

Tactics were the same as previously and it took nearly half an hour to bank a bog standard pound skimmer. Rain was now setting in and I had no brolly for this whistle stop session. I donned the waterproofs, gritted my teeth and figured it would soon be time to go. Sanity was being questioned!

And then it all came together. Out of adversity came 30 minutes of manic fishing that left me gobsmacked. Bites flowed easily as the fish presumably settled over the bait. A few skimmers, a tiny tench, a roach / bream hybrid and a pb nudging silver bream of 13.5oz, came in quick succession.

With time running short I entered last bite territory. Sopping wet, I struck into a fish and my heart started racing. A big roach I thought, but those hopes were dashed by something equally appealing. It was a huge silver bream that looked close to two pounds.

I double checked it across both the Avons and a digital scale and both confirmed 1lb 14oz. A massive pb for me and in terms of percentage of British record, my best ever catch by a mile. The Avon scales in the photo below are 6.25 inches long,

Sadly, little hope of any great photos in the wet and gloomy conditions, but one that will live long in my memory. I've done some identification checks (along with a second opinion) and it seems to stack up. If anyone spots any doubts, please share them though. I don't want to lay claim to anything dubious.

Attention will briefly turn to stillwater soon, but with bank work to do on the river and the obvious lure of the canal, it might just have to wait a while longer.