Friday, 22 June 2018

Catch up part 1 - Lure sessions of yaw.

Well I am back after a brief blogging hiatus and holy cow, have I got some catching up to do here. In short I have not been hiding under some out of place rock in the corner of a field in upstate New York, nor have I been tied to a chair blindfolded in an abandoned factory in Nuneaton. Instead my life has exploded as much did my garden when the UK finally dragged its shivering land mass through spring, and that is in part why I find myself not just writing a catch-up blog but in fact a series of catch up blogs to cover this blacked out period.

Really, I feel as if my feet have barely touched the floor since the start of May. Away from fishing it seems half the organizations in the world wanted oversized promotional printed balloons, and half of them wanted them in half the time it takes to print them. Add to that my enormous garden which exploded like a claymore full of brambles which I have taken by the thorns and am currently still fighting, section by section, to make safe for the now super inquisitive BB; a brief and rare sunny holiday has been enjoyed in Wales with the family and if all that wasn't enough I have gone fishing crazy with the arrival of the warmth, fishing so many sessions since I last wrote that the only way to recall what I have done is by the pictures I've left on blank pages of this blog! So here we go back in time in the style of H G Wells time machine...back past green tench...past trips to far away fisheries...past the Morlocks and Eloi....back back in time to...Radford bottom Lock!

Yes, apparently the furthest back I can remember from these pictures was a fishing trip onto the Canal with my good friend and fellow blogger Mick from Piscatorial Quagswagging where we went in search of his old nemesis the Zander, and from what I recall it was a pretty good session for me. The chilly grip of winter still clung to spring as the two of us met up deep in the Warwickshire countryside. Mick was already fishing when I arrived with two gaudy floats positioned very professionally along the hull of a moored boat. Not long after saying hello one of the previously mentioned floats did a little dally before tootling off down the canal. Ever the experienced zed basher, Mick waited and waited before striking hard into nothing. The bite though was enough for me to cast my dead line along the hull of the boat, before being a right cheeky begger and poaching out his water by casting a light drop shot rig in between the lines of the dead bait rods. It only took a few casts to catch a tiny schoolie zed from right the trench next to the boat.

After moving through a few other swims we arrived at an area where I can remember thinking, 'I don't like the look of this'. As always my hunch was wrong and my float was soon heading off very quickly down the canal. Convinced a zander was the culprit, I was shocked when after a brief tussle a long spawned out perch rolled into my net. For all the dead baits I've cast into to canals I think I have only ever caught three perch on them. A month or so earlier this perch would have been quite a beast but at this point it was a very long way off regaining any condition.

Through the morning we tried all the known spots, one that looked perfect for zander and a ton we tried just to cover water. With three dead bait rods and one lure rod we covered just about every inch of water we could, with not much success at all really. It wasn't until we backtracked to the moored boat that we finally got some reward by way of a proper bus job; not one, but three fish all came along in the same few minutes of madness. My dead rod was the first to spring into life followed by Mick's. For some reason I chucked mine back out straight away with my fish in the net and whilst Mick waited for his active but unmoving float to go, I landed a second zed instantly to make myself a nice brace of schoolies.

Mick left not long after this, with cooking duties to attend to, but with a little more time to hand I stuck around to have a play around the lock with the dropshot rod. I love drop shotting and with some new Realistic shad spilt tails to try out it seemed the perfect time to try the out. There seemed to be small zander hanging out all round the features of the lock. Literally I did not seem to be able to go wrong! I took them off the stony incline into the lock mouth, from tight to the wall, from of the snag pile collected at the end of the overflow run and in the eddy it formed. Either these lures were the bomb or I was very lucky on this occasion. I think I added six more small zedlets to my tally before I left and it left me pondering the question...

Maybe I should take up competition lure fishing?
Whilst on the subject of lure fishing I have to regale one of my most exciting recent lure fishing experiences I've had, which happened not long after my canal zander adventure. A little while ago I bought at a very reasonable price some of these savage gear 3D suicide ducks.

Literally the 26g versions of these lures I bought retail at the insane price of £15 per lure. I have to be honest and truthful and say that I am far too stingy to ever throw a fifteen quid lure in a lake, but at half price I was hooked into buying a pair and after watching the online promo videos I was dying to fling these out. I had originally gone up to Napton to tench fish but after spending hours watching a motionless float and rolling tench in the middle of the lake, I packed away the float gear and pulled out a lure rod and ducks to see if I could tempt a pike to strike in the shallows at the south end of the lake.

After covering all the shallow water with the duck lure and being convinced I was fishing well, I was about to give up under the assumption that the pike were unwilling to come up and take something off the top. The water I was casting in was getting deeper and I never thought for a moment that a pike would be hanging round mid-water in such deep water. That was until on one retrieve when I was sure I spotted the water swell up like a fish had just struck but missed. Half thinking I'd spooked carp lying under the surface, I cast again hoping it was, in fact, a pike. A lo and behold it was! I cast well beyond where I thought it happened and just as the lure came into the target zone a wake appeared six feet behind the lure. I slowed my retrieve just slightly and boom, the fish accelerated into and right through the duck sending water everywhere and disappearing in a boil. It wasn't the biggest pike I have ever caught but damn it was the most exciting and one that has lit a fire to do some more surface lure fishing as soon as I get a chance  

Oh, and I went back and bought another pair of those lures next time I passed that shop to make sure I have these super exiting ducklings in my lure armoury for many years to come.

Friday, 18 May 2018

Canal bream fishing.

I feel as if there has been a subtle change in in my fishing recently. I suppose it's one of those organic changes that occurs throughout your fishing as time goes by. I can distinctly remember just wanting to catch any fish at all as a youngster, then as I grew older the natural progression was that I wanted to catch lots of fish and as a result of that I focussed more on that match fishing style. Then with the capture of the occasional larger fish I transcended to chasing specimens and that leads me to where I find myself now. You see right now I don't feel that urge to at any cost catch the biggest fish I can, but instead find myself more motivated by method of capture i.e. catching pike on surface lures, tench on lift floats, carp on alarms or as the case was in this recent session canal bream on the feeder.

What sparked this latest method quest off was a comment I made in conversation where I said that even though I had owned and been using a Shakespeare mach two wand feeder rod for many years, I had, instead of using at as feeder rod, been using it as a margin perch rod on the canal using its stiffest tip. The idea soon grew in the angling cortex of my brain to actually take my mini feeder rod and some micro feeders to a quite well bream renowned area of the Coventry canal and play out my bream fishing micro feeder fantasy, which I promptly did.

It just happened that I also had a new multi feeder arm for my chair I thought would be great to try out as well and with both arm and rod in tow I nipped off down the cut and parked myself opposite the infamous hawksbury marina. I figured to go gently at it and after clipping up the feeder set right in the mouth I the marina I made five casts with a loaded feeder to get my eye in and kick start the session before I found myself setting the rod down with a gentle curve and waited for the bream to appear.

I didn't have to wait long for the skimmers to show and within fifteen minutes the tip pulled round and I landed my first close to a pound. Three more identical ones followed before the shoal moved off.

Although I was already targeting an area  around a meter and half wide it soon became obvious that the fish seemed happier to feed in the slightly deeper water at the bottom of the shelf (spot A). They seemed to occasionally come up onto the shelf (spot B) if I waited long enough but the bites took ages to materialize, as where on spot A there was instant interest. This became so evident, that if I missed the sweet spot by even a foot and a half I would recast straight away.

By keeping on this specific spot and cast regularly the skimmers a perch kept coming intermittently and I hoped it was only  matter of time before I hooked into a better bream. I think the slew of boats which had been conspicuously absent all morning pushed more fish off the main track of the canal and into the sanctuary of the marina, judging by the string of liners I got soon after they passed. Soon enough my scaled down helicopter feeder rig snagged something better and the tip wretched round. The little wand must have looked very impressive bending right over as I played the wet sack in and the rod nodded occasionally. before I slipped the net under a nice looking bream between three and four pounds or so.

I was really pleased with how this session went. It was only a short session as the boats once they got going soon forced me off the canal, but in the time I did get to fish I had ten or more small 10oz -1.6lb skimmers, a hand full of perch and roach and one single proper bream. Most importantly though the scaled down canal feeder method worked a treat with the tiny feeders, helicopter rigs and super light rod. I definitely want to get back to the same spot again to chuck a few feeders around as this area is well renowned for tench as well as bream up to very respectable canal sized fish, especially as I had so much fun on this occasion.

Friday, 27 April 2018

It's not only gold that glitters.

I've spent a large part of my life dreaming. I spent the majority of my school days dreaming of what I would do when I was not at school much to the chagrin of my teachers. I've spent a million hours lost in my head dreaming of fishing whilst working at some repetitive task at work and I often fall asleep thinking about what I would like to catch next in the hope I will dream of it. Most of the winter I've dreamt of lovely golden crucian carp or perfectly green red-eyed tench on summer nights, but just recently big silver roach have swum through my mind. I think it's because I made a mental note to have a go for them at Napton whilst it was still chilly enough to single them out, but warm enough to actually fish on the openness of this reservoir.

It turned out that the day I earmarked to fish up at Napton for these lovely roach was one of those times when I should have stopped at home for at least eighty percent of the session. Four hours I spent huddled under my umbrella about as far as a man of my stature can and the whole time the rain flip flopped from drizzle to piddle, teasing me that it might stop and the day might become the session I hoped for. The whole time I hunkered deep under that umbrella I waged war on the pint of maggots, which coaxed on by their new found climbing ability, were hell bent on escaping into the damp grass. Somewhere though, towards the end of the day a lighter shade of grey covered the horizon and soon turned to a pale blue, followed by a burning red as the sun finally broke through to dry me off.

All afternoon the total action added up to three slow slides of the float that I suspected were small perch but was suspicious were crayfish, even so though I had religiously fed maggot every so often over the light sprinkling of ground-bait I'd laid down at the start of the session. The last hour made all the waiting in the damp worthwhile. It was like a switch had been flicked and the entire lake population had sprung into life to feed with gay abandon. The perch were first in the queue and at between six ounces and a pound plus they very welcome.

Somewhere in a slew of sliding perch bites my float did a different dance. I'd been using what I call the micro lift rig which I have done so well with at this venue in the past. As I've said before the key to this rig a combination of the Drennan antenna float and the single number nine shot positioned close to the bottom which cocks the float down so as only the red tip shows. The advantage of using this rig is you see bites two ways, both up and down. The float first rose a little before stuttering under the waters film and my strike was met by a dogged fight very different from the perch I had been catching. My target had turned up by way of a very young looking roach well over a pound.

If all the fishing I did was like the last hour of this session I would soon grow ungrateful of such wonderful sport quickly. Bite after bite came constantly. I even gave up casting and sinking the line as the float was never still long enough to be pulled out of position by the floating line. It was only a numbers game before another roach came along, the only worry was would it come along before the light went and my float disappeared permanently. It got to the stage when you can't even see the black shape of the float against the reflection of the sky on the water and your eyes play tricks on you because even blinking makes you lose sight of your float in the dark. How I registered that final bite I'll probably never know, but I did and again the nodding fight of a roach excited me enough to take more care playing it. Unable to definitively identify the fish I waited till I could make it out laying calmly on the surface before gently scooping it up in the net. The blinding white light of my head lamp illuminated a second perfect bar of silver was the final fish that I had been hanging on right till the death for.

The window on targeting these lovely fish has passed quickly with the long overdue temperature rise and now the time for spring and summer species is on the horizon. Likely though I few accidental captures will come over the summer along with their ginger cousins the rudd, which will be more than welcome gifts in the future.

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Happy to be back.

With the rivers now closed and my diligence to try and eek every opportunity out of them over, I find myself returning to the canals. Frankly it's about time because I get the distinct impression that I was wasting my time a little trying to wring anything out of the river as neither fate, luck nor skill seemed to be on my side at the end there. The canals though, they're a different matter entirely because my angling is born of the canal and the murky water which dissects the land holds comfort for me with its familiarity and mysteries. At this time of year when the hedgerows flanking the cut begin to spark back into life with white blossom of hawthorn, I find myself never more satisfied than when walking a tow path to go fishing when dawn breaks or heading back in the dark with the smell of wood fires from moored boats drifts along the canal in cooling night air. All in all I am happy to be back in this world of muddy paths, unexpected surprises and dog shit.

In my mind I have a map. It's a rough map of scribbled lines and marked around those lines here and there are poorly written notes. If anyone could read those notes apart from me they'd say unintelligible worthless things like, chub/night/worm/shallow. They are things that only anglers would want to know, but to me they are invaluable. On this mental map you see are twenty-eight years of fish captures covering the Coventry, Oxford, Ashby and Grand union canals. Over time the map has become bigger and the scribbled notes have covered it more. Often I have thought about drawing it out, but I always conclude that there would be no point as no-one would want to read it so why bother; I can always look at it in my head and recall a spot to go if I want to angle after a certain fish; And recall I did, a place to go for my first session back and it was a big perch I fancied.

It was Friday morning and the sun shone on my face as I skipped down the banks of the Coventry. The wind though was cutting hard down the stretch right onto the bend where I wanted to fish. The canal looked in perfect condition with a nice tinge of colour whilst still having six to ten inches or so of visibility. After land mine check I quickly set up stall before plumbing the depth of a line just off the shelf. After flicking out the un-baited rig I busied myself chopping six fat worms into little chunks before adding some casters in my pole pot. By the time I had finished, the float had settled onto the line it would always go to in line with rod tip. Baiting up on the very tip of the rod with the pole pot whilst the water was not towing, you can assume that the bait will go straight down then once it starts towing, be left to right or right to left, the scent trail and goodies should remain on the same line even it moves either way.

Conscious of the low water temperatures, I went small with the baits to begin with and cast a lob tail over the baited line and sat down to wait. This was never going to be fast and furious session and I had to wait forty-five minutes for the float to finally show signs of fish be present. A single slight dip caught my attention and I waited for the light pole float to slide away. The light nine foot road bent over as if attached to the bottom and there juddered over even further as the culprit attempted to escape in a series of big boils in front of me. Caution and a light clutch soon brought it round to the net and my canal escapades had begun with a cracker of a perch. 

As I said before this session was not exactly action packed and to anyone reading, the details of a middle aged man shivering on the tow path would be boring. But what the session lacked in quantity it made up for in quality, though the single zander I caught on my dead bait sleeper did not rank high on the chart of quality fish!  

After the manky zed I only received four more bites. One bite I totally missed, another resulted in a miniature version of the first perch albeit only six ounces in weight. The next one was by anyones standard, a fish with some potential for years to come.

The last and final fish of the session was in the nicest possible way a football of a fish. It felt heavy in the water and in the net looked like a slab. When I picked it up and looked from above I couldn't believe its girth and just had to get a shot of a perch you could put a saddle on and a really tiny monkey, like a marmoset, could ride. 

I do love these shape of perch. Sure, I like all big perch but I love the big round ones that look like real life versions of the stuffed ones you see in glass cases rather than the long humped back ones, and it was the perfect way to finish a hard but very rewarding session with my second fish of the session over two pounds.

Two days later I found myself on a different tow path twenty or more miles away from the first. This time I  scoured my mind for a suitable place to try for a big roach and the Grand Union seemed to fit the bill. Armed with a bag of fluffy white bread crumbs tainted by a hint of a morish but mysterious flavour simply called 'big roach' and a few slices of a better than normal quality bread I hoped might attract a better sort of fish, I headed to a spot with form.

My diddy and faithful nine foot canal wand was tucked up at home and for this occasion I was once again armed with fifteen feet of carbon that I am quickly developing a close relationship with. The reason I'd bought along my Greys 15ft was I wanted to fish in the same way as the previous session only further out. So far this rod seems to be living up to the expectations of the manufacturer in that it is rated for lines between 2-8lb, which I thought a wide set of post to perform well between, but so far so good. Its not so much of a rigid beast as it knocks off smaller fish and when asked, the power of the rod progresses right down the blank with plenty of power. This time I was putting my faith in it that should a roach over a pound and half or even two come along then I should be confident in my gear.

The roach fishing did not go to plan! Saying that I did catch a roach but at a mere four ounces I felt almost shameful trying to photo it and instead simply flipped it back to grow bigger likes its siblings. Luckily for me I still had the remnants of the previous sessions bait and had by way of insurance been potting a few bits of worms and casters a rod length down the tow path in the margins. After sitting for three hours staring at a float which had moved only once I was more than ready to have a look for a perch or two, which after all was what I normally fished for here and were my target when big roach have turned up in the past.

Having already established the margin swim was a few inches shallower than the track swim beforehand, a quick adjustment of the float was all that was need before I lowered a lob tail on the spot. I watched as the cocking shot sank the float down so only the red tip showed above the water. My eyes barely had time focus on the float before it quickly vanished and I struck into a good perch. It feels a lot different playing a big perch on fifteen feet of rod rather than nine foot, but as expected the soft tip action cushioned every lunge and my third two pound perch of the weekend was soon in the net.

The insurance spot it seemed was alive with fish using the bank as cover and a string of smaller perch and a single zedlit which came off filled my final hour. With only six worms left and a sprinkle of casters, I baited up one last time before resting the spot whilst checking nothing had slunk back onto the roach line. Fifteen minutes and three barges later it was time for one last go on the margin spot before I had to get off. With a fresh half of worm on the spot I waited with the preposterously long rod resting across my lap as the float bobbed in the ripple only a foot and a half down out under the tip. I didn't have to wait long though before the float moved away from the edge and sank out into the canal. Once again the rod bent satisfyingly over as boils rose on the canals surface. This was another big fish and as much as I wanted rogue roach the fight didn't seem quite right. Finally spines broke the surface followed by stripy back. A few twists and turns later the white of the belly showed and big mouth appeared at the edge of my waiting net; My fourth and final two pound perch went in the net and helped to turn what was a disastrous roach session into the second perch red letter day on the trot.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Silver rather than gold in the end.

As I stood atop the bridge looking over the Avon I thought to myself this was either pure genius or total madness. It also occurred to me that if it did turn out to be pure genius, the attempting to fish the river when it was in such a bilious state could produce rewards not just big, but massive. It was that possibility of a huge, fat, late season barbel that drove me onto the submerged banks of Lucy's mill.

Now I've fished this section of the river on and off for close to fifteen years and in that time I've seen in it in all states, but this occasion this was the worst I'd actually attempted to fish it. I knew though that if I could access some of the slacker water between the two weirs, the chances were that some fish would have pushed in there to escape the savage flow.

The normal area most anglers fish from was a good two or even three feet under water and where the flow was diverted by forty-five degrees across onto the bank huge eddy had formed. This tempestuous bit of water looked as mean as they come. Fifty feet wide and constantly churning, it was full of branches of all sizes from those you'd throw for a dog to ones the size you'd throw for Godzilla. There were chunks of trees, old plastic drums and what looked like a section of a kids play house. Honestly, I would have not been surprised at all if a kraken emanated from the centre and grabbed one of the Japanese tourists that seemed obsessed with photographing it.

Happily though as I predicted there was a nice bit of slacker water on the far side of the river between the two weirs. The benches and ten foot wide concrete parade that were opposite the slack on my own bank were a bit under water and therefore I figured the safest place to fish was from behind one of the benches where I stood zero chance of slipping in. Although amusing at first the constant slew of comments about why I was fishing when the river was in flood grew very thin very quickly, until the point when I was ready to start throttling people whilst yelling "It's my last chance to fish that's why I am here you moron". The fishing though was actually easier than I expected! Most of the debris was drifting onto my own bank and under my rod. With my line cutting into the chocolatey water half way across the flow my tip remained motionless.

In an attempt to draw any fish downstream up I had been recasting every fifteen minutes to keep the message travelling down stream. Three hours passed with zero fishy attention to be seen on the rod tip. Really, when it's like this I was expecting the rod to instantly lurch over or all tension to spring off the rod tip. But in fact when some interest did begin to register it was more of a hint of a bite. That hint though kept coming again and again. On inspection of my paste wrapped pellet I noted lots of small chunks being bitten out of the paste. I reckon eels were the culprits and as I needed one for a few challenge points, I changed over to a lob worm hook bait.

The bites that ensued were lightning quick and I was struggling to register them on my barbel rod, so I swapped over to my Avon rod and hoped to hell I didn't suddenly find myself attached to a barbel on this much lighter outfit. The lighter tip turned a tap into a full on jerk and after missing three bites a blind man would have hit, I connected with something that was neither barbel nor eel...

What else can I say other than what better way to finish up the river season than with the last fish being a near mint condition 1.4lb roach caught in flood conditions. The only disappointment was that I couldn't catch any more even though I was convinced there were more in the swim. But anyway, I was more than happy with silver rather than gold to end the season on.

Friday, 9 March 2018

Get him boys.

I reckon I nearly got lynched the other day whilst out fishing. When I told my better half that she didn't seem at all surprised. Mind you she's always been of the opinion that there is a tiny part of my personality that brings out the worst in people and who am I to argue with that as she's a saint in my eyes and I nearly push her over the edge on a regular basis.

How this impromptu hanging nearly came to be was thus: I've been feeling a little pressured (by myself) to fish the rivers right up until the end of the season, but frankly they're a bit shit right now and I've been itching to check out a pool or two that I have discovered are showing some big perch potential. Anyway, a few things came together where it seemed getting to the river would be out of the question and with weather being almost conducive to still water fishing I took a chance and headed to one of the pools I wanted to investigate. The other thing I also wanted to do was finally have a go with my new Greys fifteen foot float rod which I've been gagging to use.

So after BB's swimming lesson, a pub breakfast and depositing my young at Nanny's for the weekend, I arrived around lunch time at my intended venue. As these commercial pools go it's pretty run of the mill with thirty or forty platform pegs, a couple of small barren islands and a smattering of anglers trying to catch deformed mouthed carp. There were seven or so chaps dotted around the pool and most of them were in the general vicinity of the feature I most fancied, in a quiet area behind one of the islands. On my way round the pool I chatted to a few of the residents and confirmed that only one chap had caught and that was a single small carp first put in, and the rest of them understandably disappointed by the lack of action. On a previous recce I found out about a deep channel in front of a reed bed close to where water trickles into the pool. The depth and cover along with the water entering the pool made it an obvious hot spot for any species in most weathers so that's where I pitched up camp.

One of the reasons I wanted a fifteen foot rod was so as I could use pole rigs to fish for perch as well as tench and crucians in the summer. The idea being that I can fish to a decent range out pretty much as if I was using a short pole and have all the control which that entails, without any of the pole accessories that you really need to use a pole correctly and that hamper mobility. The one pole accessory I have really pulled back into my armory is the pole pot which last year became a mainstay of my float fishing kit and this quickly came into play after I plumbed up and settled on a ledge which ran parallel to the target reed bed. Even as warm as the sun felt on my back I was cautious with the bait and potted in a half a pot of minced prawn, chopped worm and casters onto a very tight area. Moments later my lob tail hook bait sank onto the spot and I watched the yellow and red tip float cock and sink to half depth leaving only the red top showing.

If by now you hadn't figured out where this was going, then here we go. I didn't even have chance to react to the first bite as by the time it had registered that my float had gone the rod tip was bent round and I was playing what felt like a decent sized carp. Happily as described by the manufacturer, my new rod had gone from its stiff rigid state to a pleasing parabolic curve and even with a panicky carp bashing around in the shallows it felt like I had loads of power in reserve. In no time at all the fish had been subdued into my waiting net.

After netting and photographing a rather pleasing mirror I took it well away from swim to release it. It was on the way back that one chap congratulated me and his mate grumbled something about me having a secret bait. So of course the next cast I made onto spot was obviously going to produce the second carp straight away. I actually heard the grumbling chap say, "he's making us look stupid here", as I played the fish. Then as I got rid of that unwanted worm thief the chap and his mate both aired their opinions that I either knew the lake inside out or was using some mysterious illegal bait. I'd say you couldn't write what happened next, but you can and it did! Third cast and boom, third fish on and it's hard to hide fifteen feet of bent carbon on a well cropped commercial pool from seven bored anglers. I didn't hear the chap approach but I certainly heard him proclaim "worms" at the top of his voice to his mates and turned  to see one of the guys standing behind me before he turned off and say "well, I know what to bring next time" as he walked away from my bait box.

Thank god the bites dried up after this and my streak that unsettled the locals evaporated with it. After this I was reluctant to bait up too much in case of drawing in more flipping carp as they seemed to be hungry even if I was the only one catching and my free bait was the special of the day. Eventually I had to bait up and when another pot of bait went in the carp again quickly found it. After catching one smallish carp I moved the rig off of the bait for a while until the carp I hoped cleared up and left. After a suitable amount of time had elapsed I slowly lowered the worm tail bait on what I hope was a spot devoid of carp, and it was. Half an hour later the float rose exposing the yellow stem under the red tip and quickly dipped away. I struck and felt an almost hard thump before the rod bent under pressure and the pressure quickly released sending the rig into the air.

I was sure the bumped off fish was a perch and thinking it might still be around I dropped the rig straight back in. A further thirty minutes without a bite and I had no choice but to roll the dice one last time. With less than an hour before I had to be off the bank I once again baited the spot with more chopped goodness and let it stew for a while before daring to cast the rig. It was an exact repeat of the previous scenario only this time the fish was on. The fight was pure joy on the new rod and quickly the fishes identity was confirmed as a big perch before it slipped into the net. 

All I can say is what a stunner of a commercial fish it was! If every one I catch from this ignored little venue is this good looking then I will be back time and time again to risk a lynching from the local gobshites as fish like this are well worth the risk and more, especially as I have heard they grow to twice the size of this one in there.

Friday, 23 February 2018

Winter can do one!

It's not been an auspicious start to the year for myself. In fact quite frankly I'd happily forget the best part of January. It's been one of those seasons that for some unknown reason I haven't clicked particularly well with and thus so whenever I have been out fishing it feels like I am pushing against the flow rather than going with it. Other years I have reveled in the cold of winter and even at the hardest of times I have made good choices and reaped the rewards. This winter though has just been generally a bit blah. Getting the bona fide flu for the first time in decade didn't really help things and this in itself took two weeks to fully recover from, keeping me away from the bank the entire time. But for the dreadful start to the year and sickness, I have actually got out here and there slopping about in the flood deposited mud on the banks of the Avon; having a jack pike filled session lure fishing an old estate lake; and a foray onto the canal to try out some new pole floats I like the look of for crucian fishing when memories of this infernal winter have faded away into oblivion.

Being away from the bank though has not been without its disadvantages. Time spent indoors has been used well to subtly wind young BB into a fishing fervor via his magnetic fishing game (which I must say he's a terrible cheat at,) That combined with him seeing me go off fishing has him ready to have his first fishing trip come the summer and catch his first fish, which he is insistent must be yellow. Which sort of yellow fish that might be I haven't decided yet, but it sure as ice is cold it ain't gonna be a carp I know

I finally found my rhythm a little while ago when all things aligned themselves once again and for the first time in a long time I made the right decision. The Avon was within its banks and it seemed just the right timed session for me to head to the upper reaches to try and tap up some old haunts for a big river perch before the season wrapped up. The upper Avon is not that well renowned for its masses of big perch, but over the years I've stumbled upon a few pockets of fish I always suspected could produce a lump or two in the near future.

Conditions looked spot on with over cast skies and wrapped up against the bitter wind I crossed the freshly ploughed field towards the line of mismatched trees marking the course of the river. Having fished this area a few times before I knew the deeper holes and torpid slacks were the best place to start and they all looked perfect with lots of flotsam hung up on the overhanging branches forming rafts of cover on the edge of the main flow.

The first spot was a deep hole right on my own bank where it's been undercut by the incessant flow when the river is in flood. Gently I cast a single lobworm into the centre of the river with little more than a single swan shot to drag it down. After paying out a little line once the bait hand reached bottom I held the rod stationary as the flow forced the bait into the bank and under the bank. Instantly the tip of the rod nodded and as it bent round I struck into nothing. A bait less hook indicated some had got a free meal off of me. Repeating the cast two or three more times brought no more bites and I concluded to move off downstream to the next swim.

This time the target spot was a slack on the opposite bank where some unseen object forced the water eddy round back upstream and any passing goodies to get deposited in the slack under a tree. With more weight added to the rig to prevent the bait getting dragged out of the slack I cast under the tree. The bait had barely settled before the tip was dragged round and the fish swung across the flow towards my own bank. The fight was dirty and after dragging it again and again out of the reeds lining my own bank I stretched to my very limit to slip the net under a nice chub.

After releasing the chub in an area I didn't intend to fish I returned and diligently scoured the swim for perch to no avail and so was off again to another slack on the inside of a bend. This normal banker swim produced not so much as a nibble and frankly I wouldn't have mentioned it, but after I left it I walked a good way down to the next spot I fancied via a field of sticky rutted mud, a water filled ditch and a hawthorn hedgerow which I had to crawl through. It wasn't until I reached my intended destination that I realised my two favourite extendible bank sticks and rod rests were in fact still in the last swim an obstacle course away. Cold and unhappy at the prospect, I grumbled my way back sans the rest of my gear through the hedgerow and ditch to venture across the fallow field like some Arctic explorer, on a mission to retrieve the rod rests.

Spot the rod rests competition.
The last swim I felt was my best shot at a perch or two. Although complex due to the several possible hiding holes all over the swim, I had always found the perch seemed to congregate on a shallowing inside bank were food gets naturally washed by the flow and also where minnows in their millions congregate in the summer months. Once again using the almost free lined worm with a single swan shot to drag it down I flicked the rig deftly into the tree in the other bank! And then had to pull for a break! This annoyingly sent the line shooting back through every ring on the rod.

After retreating to the field to set up again I again crawled into position amongst the undergrowth, hooked up a whole worm and began swinging it back and forth before letting fly with cast and cringing as the rig passed with inches of the branch that had claimed my last rig. If there were perch present it wouldn't take long for them to cotton on to the bait after it slowed into the slacker water where I hoped they would be. A ten minute wait produced no response so I went about searching some of the other perchy hiding holes in the swim all bar one seem devoid of fish. The one that produced was a snaggy spot right under my feet. The angle of the line looked comical to me coming almost back under the rod, but no sooner had the bait settled than the rod whacked round as another chub found the my bait. That fish was the last of the session and I won't say that I was disappointed being unable to find my target for the session as the perch up here aren't easy to locate and a couple of nice chub on a freezing cold winters day roving round on the upper Warks Avon will do me just fine.