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.  

Friday, 8 December 2017

Back at that itch once again.

What is there to blog about the lower Itchen fishery that hasn't already been blogged? It is almost a right of passage for any Midland blogger to make pilgrimage there, as we come from one of the places in the UK with no genuine access to grayling. Go west into Wales and there's grayling, go North and there's grayling and if you go South and there shit loads of grayling. So I suppose it makes sense that those of us from the grayling void would want to go to the best place to catch a grayling and thus fly South in the winter to do so.

Not wanting to recount exactly blow for blow such an epic voyage I think this time the pictures will have to recount  much of this trip as not only do I not want to bore any readers with every tiny detail, but also I can barely remember everything as the day was so busy. Needless to say it began with an awfully early start in Coventry when I awoke prior to my alarm going off at four am and looked out of my window to see a light scattering of snow dusting my street. This winter theme was to dominate the day ahead. After thawing the car and making the trip over to my companion for the day, Mick's, house we whizzed through the traffic to arrive at the river not that long after the sun came up.

As both myself and Mick were of the same mindset to make as much of our day as possible we both agreed that we would please ourselves on this session and just link up for a spot of lunch around midday when Mick had promised a steaming hot lunch to power us through the day.
Being as it was freezing and that truthfully I quickly get bored of it, I opted to begin by trotting on the upper reaches to get the monkey off my back and bag a grayling on the float before pulling out my favoured feeder gear and smashing the place to bits.

First blood on the pin was beautiful grayling from a side stream.
Next bite came of course from a trout, albeit a good one.

After an hour trotting a few winding swims I finally worked my way down to an area I really fancied chucking feeders full of maggots into. Having already caught fifteen or more grayling up to a pound and a half I hoped to possible winkle out some of the other coarse species in a deep bend. So I put away the float gear and got on with the vulgarity of plying copious amounts of maggots into this sacred water. After relentless amounts of small grayling the trout arrived, though their identities as always confuse me.

Brown trout?
Sea trout?
Mick eventually passed by wrapped up against the freezing wind and much to his credit continued successfully trotting plenty of fish out of swims which I can honestly say I would have passed by, thinking them too shallow to fish.

With lunch time approaching and having caught an entire lifetimes worth of small grayling I opted to move back upstream towards the car and lunch. On the way down I had spotted an interesting looking side stream that entered the main river I quite liked the look of. The straight deep run directly above the junction looked prime for possible dace action so I ditched all but my float rod at the car and crossed a rather rickety bridge to access the run... my effort was rewarded...

My best grayling of the day at 1.10lb
Mick lived up to his promise and around lunch time the scent of frying onions began to drift over the fields through the chilly wind towards me. Sadly at the time this delectable scent was reaching my nostrils I was engaged in trying to untangle the line from the back of my centre pin after I had foolishly not engaged the ratchet having caught a fish. Ultimately the line was ruined and the bloody ratchet system collapsed and ended my trotting for the day.

A wonderful sight for a cold and hungry angler after a mornings fishing.
My afternoons plan was simple. Drop right down river to target a swim I have fished every visit to try and catch a decent chub or even a big roach which inhabit the lower reaches of the fishery. Luckily Mick had something similar in mind and so after loading up the car we made the savage journey down the heavily rutted road towards the weir at the bottom of the stretch to get as much fishing in as we could before the light went in a few hours time.

As per normal the maggot feeder drew copious amount of small grayling onto the line I was casting on and I hoped that all the action would sooner or later get the attention of the chub. In the end all I could catch was grayling all afternoon right up until my maggots ran out and I switched to the bread feeder with a pinch of flake as bait. My first cast and the tip wrenched round and I was attached to something good...

A rather fresh sea trout, I think?
The dark was soon upon us and after trying for so long I held out well on into dark for the rod to show any signs the chub might be about. Not long before I had to be packing up I detected a slight nod of the white rod tip in the dark. Moments later I was hooked into a very hard fighting fish which kept low in the water. After a hard fight unable to see anything the fish eventually came to the surface and a big set of white rubbery lips could be seen at the end of my net.

4.10lb of mint Itchen gold
Not long after I landed it Mick turned up and helped me take picture in the dark using an amazingly bright light. Happy with my last cast chub, we packed up and headed off to the local pub for some warmth, a drink and well deserved meal.

Friday, 24 November 2017

Have a kipper on me.

The heady summer days chasing tench and crucians at Napton reservoir seem a distant memory now and along with them the worry of obtaining a decent position has faded. With autumn just about gone the banks now become deserted and the waterfowl grow in numbers. Not many anglers other than those seeking pike bother now the colder temperatures are here but for me the idea of big roach draws me back.

The entire drive there I thought of big silver flanks and blood red fins. This summers fishing and the occasional capture of a big roach has burnt the idea into my mind. I can't exactly remember who it was that said a big perch is the biggest of fish, but in my mind a big roach is the biggest of fish. Maybe that's because we see so many small roach that when you actually see a big roach first hand something in your mind kind of questions if it's the same species, because roach don't grow that big do they! I know the specimen weight of a roach is supposedly 2lb and therefore that becomes a marker of a big roach, but I believe that at 1lb that's when a roach is a big roach; I don't think many anglers will disagree that when you see a roach of that size attached to your line you suddenly become a lot more careful about landing it.

As I rounded the corner and the car park came into view I was stunned out of silver dreaming by the sight of a car park full of cars. Either a long-billed Dowitcher had turned up and the lake was lined with rampant twitchers or something fishy was going down. It turned out to be the latter and the club were stocking a batch of fresh carp into the lake to renew the dwindling population. I can't deny winding up the committee members up a bit as I pulled up by asking if it was a fresh batch of crucians? To which their answer was it was the afore mentioned carp. My final comment though seemed possibly a step too far when I proclaimed "ah, otter feeding day is it?" to which the only reply was angry glares...

Looking out over the water, the lush green rushes had faded to brown and although the water temperature had to have dropped the lush summer weed still seemed ever present in the larger lake. Curiosity drove me to have a quick chuck around with a lead in the bigger lake to confirm that yes, even out over forty yards it was still too weedy to fish how I wanted to. So I set up on the popular corner peg at the end of the bridge to fish out in the small square lake. After picking a nice spot an easy cast out, I loaded a large feeder loosely with ground bait and maggots to cast out by way of attraction. Even the mini spomb I like to use would deposit too much bait to locally for my liking. On my last attempt at this I felt I totally over cooked the swim with bait before I started fishing. Ten feeder loads of freebies deposited later I was cast out on the spot and watching the water.

Bar the few hundred water birds on the big lake and the newly released carp bashing around, all was pretty quiet. I stood on the bridge watching the grebe hunt hoping to see it catch something right until it passed under me and the bridge and popped up back in the big lake. That's when I spotted another angler over the water. Interestingly, he was seemingly casting a fly as I could see the line lifting off the water. From afar I saw him land a small pike and release it before moving on. 

Trying to keep active and the bait fresh, I concluded to recast every twenty minutes to make sure there was always bait around my hook bait. Quickly I got into a rhythm and every recast was hitting clip and dropping in a very tight area. There was one fly in my ointment though; every time I reeled in I saw a pike come up and chase my feeders in. The pike angler in me even slowed the feeder up once just to incite the take which it did and my feeder was duly ripped off my line to be spat out in disgust later.

That pike quickly went from amusing to worrying as I was fishing for a single bite so far and if I got any sort of fish on, never mind a big roach, they were done for with this pike around. Though I had a rod that would have done the job I was lacking traces and lures to try and get it out and moved on. When I saw the pike angler approaching me I quickly reeled in both rods and recruited the chap, who seemed to be Scandinavian of origin, to try and hook the offending pike.

I reckon he thought I was pulling his chain when I explained and offered up my swim for plundering, but he eventually began working a giant gaudy tinsel filled fly back and forth through the air, pulling off line as he did, until the line flew out and landed gently on the water with the fly some thirty feet out. The first retrieve raised nothing, but on the second cast we both saw the mottled back of a pike follow the fly before slashing and missing it. After shooting me a smile he was casting again this time towards the direction the pike had turned off. Once again the pike grabbed the fly and spat it out before the hooks bit home. Both our hearts were going after that, but I think we both knew it would have another go... and it did! This time though the rod bent over hard as the pike struck and there was no missing that hit! I originally only thought it was a oversized jack pike until it twisted flashing its flanks in the deep water and I knew it was a double. Then the net went under it and it looked much bigger. On the mat unhooked it was three times the fish I originally thought it was and my new Scandi friend was thrilled when the scales went over fifteen pounds.

It was released well away from my swim and I have to say I got just as much enjoyment putting this chap onto the fish and watching him catching it as I would of myself. 
The excitement over, I got the rods back out and got back into my rhythm. As the light drew in my silent alarms sprang into life. As I suspected might be the case, the fish came on the feed at the end of the day as is often the case in the colder months. Mere minutes after every cast the bobbins would begin to dance and the purple led lights of my buzzers would flicker on. I have to say these bites were near impossible to hit and an hour of hard work into dark yielded little more than a string on small perch. I had hoped that even if I did not actually catch one of the large roach that reside in Napton, that they might help me out by rolling as dark fell. Even such a tiny morsel as a few decent fish rolling might have at least contributed a tiny piece to this puzzle. I watched both lakes right up until I could barely see the water through the dark and not one sign of fish was forth coming.

I now find myself in that difficult situation where the challenge of a campaign to catch a big Napton roach is as attractive as ever, but common sense tells me such an endeavor would mean spending lot of time and blank sessions chasing after a hard to win prize when there are so many other species I want to get after over the winter months.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Sassy sargents and river crocs.

Being on a new stretch of the Warks Avon this year has been amazing so far. So many of my angling buddies recommended this club to me the over past few years, only for me to never follow their advice and truthfully I could kick myself for waiting so long to get on it. The Barbel fishing when the conditions have been right has been amazing and the few chub I've caught has me almost willing the freezing winter upon us. It's the predators I have on my mind right now, specifically the question of whether there are any big perch lingering around in the slacks of the weirs or quiet backwaters.

So the other day I headed off into a freezing morning to fish lobworms in the deep waters I hoped might hold a big perch or two. Overnight rain made me hedge my bets and take along some stinky flavored meat to fish on a barbel rod as well, just in case. After a quick cast on a deep swim on the way up to weir to see if a big old chub might be tempted to take a single offering which I rolled into a snaggy hidy hole, I went off to my main target area, the weir at the top of the stretch.

Surprisingly although I have chucked all sorts of lures into this weir I have never actually caught a single perch so far. The lobworms I had brought along though I felt sure would root out something with stripes and whilst doing that I planned to put out a big smelly bait right into the head of the weir thinking maybe a chub, barbel or even carp might find it.

The perch weren't hard to find and not long after casting the split worm hook bait into an eddy over the other side the rod tip started to rattle as small perch homed in on the bait. At least ten small perch grabbed the bait and got hooked before finally a bigger example of 1.6lb found the worm to tempting and pulled the rod tip right over.

The meat rod did one single bite all morning, which was a sitter of a bite I still can't quite believe I didn't hook up on. I am not a massive fan of upstream ledgering and I think that went against me in this case. I know you're technically meant to wait for a drop back of the rod tip. On this occasion, the rod tip jerked forward and for a moment I hesitated to hit the bite and in doing so missed it. 

Once the sun really got up into the sky the perch bites justs dried up. I had anticipated this might happen and already had plan B ready to go by way of a bag of dead baits in my rucksack. Soon enough I made my way back down towards the backwater which was almost static and looked certain to hold some predators like pike and hopefully perch.

With the banks lined with cover the swim I decided to fish had to hold a few predators and after a mooch around, I soon found a croc holding motionless near some snags...

I couldn't find any perch at all in this deeper static water, but the pike were like buses and after waiting for a little over twenty minutes, two came along one after another. The first was a small jack of maybe three pounds which I left in the net waiting for a picture whilst I recast another roach dead bait into the far margin. As I was setting up the camera the rod was away again and bigger and much more spritely pike ripped around the swim. With no choice but to try and net the fish with a fish already in the net, I went for it. The first pike though was having none of it and shot out of the net at the first opportunity and denied me a brace shot.

The next and final pike encounter of the session came as I searched the cover for a perch. After covering every bit of cover or snag in the entire swim with a popped up lobworm bait, I finally cast it to the last bit of cover on the right-hand side of my own bank. I'd barely had time to tighten down onto the lead before the rod whacked over. Lord above I wanted it to be a perch as it felt big, but I suspected I was into a chub. That was until it powerfully surged off just like a pike and I realised this was going to be one of those fights that might end badly for me with me four-pound line. I did my very best letting the fish get away with anything it wanted on a lightly set clutch. Ultimately it was on a matter of time before the fish inevitably turned onto that light line with its sharp teeth, which it did leaving my line flowing in the wind and me packing up to go home.