Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Method in my madness

Standing looking out over the garden munching my bowl of fruit and fibre I mulled over the conversation I had only half an hour before with a sleepy Jacky, that I may have been insane going out in this freezing weather. Funnily enough I had had a similar conversation with Keith regarding the destination for my intended Sunday morning session, where he to had confirmed that my sanity may be in doubt!

After scraping the snow and underlying frost from the outside of the car I began the annoying task of scraping the inside of the window screen too, before grabbing the minimal kit I had sorted the night before and making my way out into the white void that is currently Warwickshire.

My venue for the day was a tiny tributary of the Avon that I have often thought about fishing but never got round to. The reason I had suddenly made the decision to head to this trickle was solely down to me hearing that some good roach had been caught last winter down stream, and as Jeff has helpfully passed on a little of his roach obsession to me I had to give it a go.

It was to turn out to be a day of firsts for me; the first time I had fished this new stretch and the first time I had been sitting next to a river with it actually freezing before my eyes. It took me a while to figure out what was going on as my rod tip kept pulling round then dropping back as if I was getting a drop back bites. After striking a couple of times I noticed a small clump of ice on my line at the exact point where the line was penetrating the surface film.

What was happening was that the ice would build up n the line until it formed a tiny sheet of cat ice in the wake of the line, when it got to big to support its self the thin sheet it would snap off and drift off down stream causing my tip to fly back much in the style of a drop back bite. But what else can you expect when you're fishing in minus seven degree temperatures.

After fishing some ten plus swims I got my first bite of the day from exactly the fish I expected. A little chub of not much over a pound had found my tiny pinch of bread after being attracted by the smallest feeder of liquidised bread I have ever cast into a river.

It was only a short while later on when it's bigger brother or sister found my bait another five or so swims down stream. This one however caused me some serious problems largely due to a large sheet of ice between me and the open water I was fishing in. It is a rather disconcerting feeling to see your line grating on the edge of a jagged sheet of ice six feet out from the bank and the fish that is attached to the end of that line is clearly visible only two feet out from your under the ice. When I did finally get it out into the main flow the second problem arouse, my three metre landing net pole which I thought would me more than adequate for the trip only reached to the very edge of the ice and after already landing one chub my frozen net head itself was airing on the wrong side of weighty. In the end I had little choice but to smash the edge of the thin ice with the frozen head to enable me to land the dark 2lb chub.

I felt lucky to get a couple of bites on such a harsh day never mind land two nice little chub from a new river that is little more than a drainage ditch. But the best was still to come... I had explored a load of fruitless swims over a huge amount of river and I was about to give up when I came across a swim that looked like nothing more than a deeper run of darker water amongst two reed lined banks. Thinking this would be my last swim I swung the feeder into the centre of the run and watched the flake sink under the pressure of the flow. The tip rattle instantly but in a different way to the chub bites. The bites were fast, sharp and impossible to hit but after waiting and waiting something at last pulled the tip round enough for me to strike. Catching  the sight of silver flashing under the water my heart thumped at the prospect at finally finding what I was looking for!
It was no monster by anyone standards but at ten ounces it was perfect example of a small river roach.

For me this fish is more special than any five pound chub I could have caught. I have discussed a certain topic with a few of my fishing buddies recently that I feel this fish falls into it. We so often catch fish that are immature that are tossed back as tiddlers But in my opinion when a fish, especially roach, reach maturity they start to look different. Not in a bad way but almost in a way that if an artist was to paint a specimen roach it would look like this and not like the little blade roach we flip back without even a second glance. The same thing seems to happen with perch when they develop that huge humped back and you know that they now have the potential to grow big. In some species this maturity is obvious, such as bream  turning from silver to brown, whereas others such as carp, barbel and tench all look the same small as they do big.

For me this is a very special fish and judging by the amount of interest I was getting in this swim there may be others that could break that magical 1lb barrier or even more. So I will be back! hopefully very soon.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

The winter and Leam blues

Every year about this time I begin to get the same feeling regarding my fishing; I suppose you might call it winter fishing blues or, on the other hand, you could call it a plain old mood 'cos I can't go and do what I want to. This feeling normally happens when fishing options - where to fish and what to do - get narrowed down by the onset of winter. Like many of my fellow bloggers I find the only option I have to fulfil my fishing addiction is to turn to chub fishing on small streams. I don't mind a bit of chub fishing here or there, but faced with no other real options it becomes quite a bind, and the prospect of doing nothing else for another month or so makes me start looking at the price of golf clubs on ebay. The situation this year has been compounded by my eagerness to plan for next years fishing challenge before the new year sets in, to enable me to bag the seven to ten new PB's I reckon I will need to win. This has resulted in me formulating a list if target species, venues and times of year in which to target them! So already before Xmas is even here, I am dreaming of warm summer evenings watching ripples emanating from a piece of peacock quill or baking behind a set of buzzers waiting for a screaming run. But back in reality at the top of my list for the new challenge the words chub, Avon and January bring me back with a slap...

The weather had eased off a bit toward the end of the week and with the feeling back in my toes after my last outing, I agreed with Rob to go on a exploring session with him to a river I have ignored purposely for a long time.

I don't know what it is about the river Leam in my home county of Warwickshire but it just does not excite me at all. I have heard rumours of good fishing here and there, I have had the odd session on it every so often, but every time I walk away from it I never get that feeling that I want to rush back. To be honest I have always seen it as the poor relation of the Avon with it's almost static flow and smaller fish. I am sure that it could be great in its own ways but it just doesn't wet the appetite enough for me to dedicate enough of my time to find out. Which is a real pity as in places its a real stunner...

Carrying only a tiny bag filled with a selection of baits, one light quiver tip rod and a landing net, Rob and  hopped over each other through some of the most savage scrub the English countryside has to offer. After  a hour or so, whilst running a stick float through a nice glide, Rob drew first blood with a nice chub before missing a couple of bites. The upper section we were exploring was all new to me even though it has always been on my Leamington angling club book. I have fished the lower half of this stretch but normally only when the canal nearby has been frozen. 

Bites were hard to come by but finally after moving back down to the bottom of the stretch I located a shoal of fish prepared to engage my morsel of bread. After forty minutes of tiny bites I did manage to contact with a fish. The disbelief that I had just spent all that time trying to catch a nano dace that wouldn't even be big enough to use as a perch bait shifted me on. 

It was much the same in the next swim as my rod tip trembled constantly before out of no where a real bite appeared. Watching the line zig-zag all over the river, seeing a flash of silver; I swear I nearly pooped my pants as I dared to dream it was a big roach! But only too soon a pair of big white lips appeared at the end of the landing net.

A nice 3lb chub was enough to put a smile on my face but just imagine what my face would have been like if it was a 3lb roach.... 

As I write this something just occurred to me from deep within my addled memory! A few years ago on this stretch not far away from where I caught this chub, Rob and myself spotted an epic pike lying in the edge waiting for a tasty chub to swim by. Now that is something that might tempt me back to the Leam in the next month or so...

Friday, 10 December 2010

Even Eskimos wouldn't bother

This mini ice age we seem to be enduring at the moment is really starting to grate a little. So much so that the other day I began trying to find out exactly what is going on with the weather here in freezing old blighty. What I found out was rather interesting... Usually in late November and December most of our weather comes from a westerly direction off the Atlantic, which although it tends to be a little wet holds the colder weather from northern Europe off. But this year there is some kind of storm circulating in the Atlantic which is preventing the westerly winds from keeping us nice and wet and is instead actually pulling the snow, ice and general freezing conditions right over us; hence we have got the weather we normally receive in January and February a whole six weeks early and the fishing is just about XXXXXX!

The two months leading up to Xmas is normally my busiest time of year at work and I find myself working most weekends and taking a day off early the following week to get a little fishing done. Sadly for me the only day I could get off turned out to be the morning after one of the coldest nights since records began at a shivering -12 Celsius, with a predicted day temp of a balmy -6 Celsius. I won't lie and say that as I passed over the river my arse was squeaking a little thinking it might well be frozen over. After parking the car I walked down to the river through the freezing fog and a wall of white to see the river was still flowing, although against the white back drop it looked practically black. Opposite me my fears were confirmed as in the slower areas on the opposite bank ice had formed a good six feet out into the flow.

My first job once in place was to try and thaw my already frozen landing net from its flat profile and refreeze it in to a more usable net like shape. A task which took all of one dip in the river to defrost it and one whole minute hanging in the much colder air to refreeze again so solid it could support itself.

My target species for the day was the humble roach which earlier on in the year I had landed a respectable 1 1/4 lb specimen from this area of the river. Ever since I have had a burning desire to have another go at them to try and increase the my river pb to a little closer to the 2lb mark.

I did want to run a bait through on a stick float or waggler but even Keiths tip of using glycerine on the rod rigs wouldn't have stopped the ice forming in them, which Rob found out later when he had a go on the float after he turned up later on. I instead went with a feeder rig to knock that infuriating ball of ice out of the tip as I cast out each time.

After a fruitless time fishing maggot I was suprised when after changing  to bread as a hook bait my rod tip sprang into life. The bites were sharp and fast and almost impossible to hit but it was only a matter of time before I began to connect with them.

The roach weren't very big at all but on a day like this any bite or fish were very well received no matter how small. After finally connecting with one and casting out again all went quiet, which turned out to be the trend all day. The fish would build up enough confidence to move onto the bait, it would then take ten casts where they nipped off the bread before I connected with one then they would disappear for up to forty minute before it all started again.

Around midday the fog lifted and the sun popped out and although the temp came up the bites ended for a good few hours.

The fish didn't come again until about an hour before dark and when they did it went on for about an hour before they totally switched off as the temp dropped right down again. I did kind of expect them to feed right into the dark and I felt that this would be my best chance of a bigger example but the best I managed all day was maybe 5oz.

I did again fish a second rod with a large bait over the river against a snag  in case anything bigger might have fancied an early winter snack. But the only thing this rod produced all day was a very impressive 5mm thick  collection of air frost on line and a rather strange noise when I tried to reel it in at the end of the session.

Although I never got anything decent I was more grateful for any action from even the tiniest amounts of fish on such a harsh day. I was also glad that when I got home and checked under my socks where I once felt my feet used to be that all my toes were still there and none had snapped off as I walked back to the car. 

Monday, 29 November 2010

Winter is well and truly here.

I am not getting the time to fish at the weekends at the moment due to family commitments and other things so I am taking any opportunity to get a weekly fix that comes my way. So with a  day off I got back on the river for a day session on Thursday, but not before Jacky aired her concerns about my sanity for heading to the river for the day on the coldest day of the year so far. With night time temperatures below zero and day time temperatures around one degree Celsius with possible snow showers predicted, I took nothing to chance. By the time I had donned all my fleece layers and my winter suit I felt like I was wearing an inflatable sumo suit.

Turns out Jacky was spot on and I was insane! After six hours with a freezing northerly wind in my face all I had to show for my efforts of throwing a feeder all day was one single tiny dace which I never bothered to photo as it would have been an insult to the camera for getting it out. Towards the end of the day I was really thinking of jacking it in.

As I am not a God fearing man it would be considered hypocritical of me to say I was praying for a change in my fortunes, but even though I wasn't praying my prayers were certainly answered when the sky turned black one whole hour before dusk and moments later the rings of rising fish were all over the river.

A message from someone maybe!

As if by magic the rod tip sprang into life and in the last hour the fish really switched on in a feverish feeding frenzy. To say it was a bite a chuck would be an understatement because before the feeder had even hit the bottom it was like there was a queue of fish waiting to attack the hook bait. Strange thing was that they were all roach between two and six ounces and every one was an absolutely perfect condition clear water fish.

Though I was enjoying the now unstoppable run of fish and had landed thirty plus little roach on the trot time was ticking away. Soon I found myself thinking that universal anglers thought 'just one last cast'; the one last cast didn't produce anything and I began packing up. Though I did have a gambit up my sleeve...
I had up until now neglected to mention that I had cast out a sleeper rod baited with an inhuman smelling gob of my secret cheese paste next to a snaggy overhanging tree on my own bank at the start of the day. Although I had received no attention on this line I had re baited it twice through the day and now as I packed up it had become the focus of my attention. Whilst putting one rod back in it's bag I thought I caught glimpse of a slight nod on the sleeper rod. Dropping everything I moved into position and watched intently. Two more nods registered before the tip slowly pulled round and I struck into a solid fish that was desperate to get under the tree. It didn't take long for me to catch sight of a huge pair of white lips in the twilight. That faithful winter feeder the chub, had found my bait and was now safely in my net. It did not look that big in the water but on the bank it seemed to grow as I unfolded the net mesh around it. At 4.7lb it totally validated my sitting on the bank for seven hours waiting for it in freezing weather.
Winter wonder

Although my persistence paid off this time the realisation that winter is well and truly here reminds me that it's about time to rethink my tactics and target fish for the next few months, as winter has arrived hard this year and if the last one is anything to go by it could be a hard and lean period all round.

Friday, 26 November 2010

A bit of skill and a whole load of luck.

I met up with Keith and Jeff on Tuesday night  for a bit of a social session in the area where Jeff has been creaming out the predators on the canal. Jeff has heard on the tow path grapevine that a huge pike has been caught near by and with the plethora of Zander and pike he has landed here in the last few weeks on his quest for a big Zed, I could not resist but to go over there with the aim of bagging this monster and join in on the fun.

A long day at work meant I was never going to arrive until well into dark after practically shoving Jacky out of the car as we passed the house. Soon enough I found myself wandering through the murk trying to locate the others in the black shrouded canal. After locating them I found they had not had any interest and were ready to move to another spot up the canal. In the new spot six rods went out into the dark and our vigil began.

I love these social session for two reasons; firstly standing round chatting and pooling information on species, venues and tactics, secondly having six rods covering a whole area of water with three pairs of eyes means not a lot gets missed thus increasing all of our chances of catching.

Jeff drew first blood with a chunky PB Zander of 5lb that will certainly be a big fish for the future. After settling back into our routine after the fish we watched intently for the next float to go. Whilst all of us were watching one of Jeff's floats for a supposed movement I neglected to check mine and upon turning back it had gone.

My strike was at first met by sluggish but solid resistance and I suspected a decent Zander may have been the culprit. That was until whatever is was broke the surface and realised it had been hooked where it promptly woke up after feeling the cold night air. There was a bit of debate as to what it was, but three head lights focused on it confirmed a pike which ran me and Jeff a merry dance, as he tried to net it and I tried to steer it much to Keith's amusement. I did not think it was as big as it was until Jeff heaved the net out of the water when the girth was revealed.

Safely on the soft grass I flipped it over to see my tiny hook holding on to the smallest flap of skin just outside the scissors of it's mouth. At fourteen and a half pounds it was well received and really made my night in the freezing cold  very worth while.

After this we didn't last very long in the freezing November night air and soon enough we found ourselves sitting next to an open log fire in the local pub with a pint in our hands.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Food for the soul.

Occasionally I find myself guilty of concentrating so much on what I am doing that I do not see the real beauty of my surroundings. By this I mean that  though I spend as much of my spare time as I can out in the wilds of the verdant land in which I reside, I am more than likely staring intently at a rod tip or float and miss out on the wondrous back drop that frames the whatever I am staring at.

I had got Friday off work and went out fishing with no more intention of casting line upon water and hoping something might nibble my bait. I headed to one of the most quiet spots my beloved Avon has to offer. With no particular species in mind I tossed out a feeder full of liquidised bread and crushed grilled hemp into the deep slow moving water. As I suspected the fish were being a little more than finicky But I did not care at all as the view in front of me was sublime.

Sitting next to the river sipping tea I lazily basked in the warm winter sun as my rod tip nodded occasional-ally as one of the resident tiddlers pecked at my bread bait. I got my first view of a water rail as it sauntered along the reed bed in front of me but sadly I couldn't move an inch towards the camera before it shot of over the river into the under growth. By mid morning I had managed to scrape together a hand full of bits and a couple of little skimmers around a pound. The next tap was followed by a hoop of the rod and I found myself playing one of the resident bream for a short while before I bumped it off. My next bream also found freedom but the third made it's way to the net and sent the scales round to a satisfying 6lb something.

The afternoon slowly drifted away as had the bream shoal and with the sun at it's highest the rod tip went into stasis. Leaving my post I meandered off along the wooded bank to see who or what may have been around. The birds were going wild catching flies in the first bit of warm weather for a few weeks and I spent a good half an hour watching a pair of tree creepers moving from tree to tree pecking at any insects too slow to escape them. I did come across a couple of fellow fishermen; one who was holding out for monsters which I suspect never turned up, and an old chap whom I sat beside for a while and chatted to as he ran a stick float through and swung in a dace or roach with the regularity of a metronome. It's strange but I love to watch other people fish as much as I love to do it myself especially when they do it as well as this chap.

After returning to my kit I settled in for the final few hours, most of which was uneventful, but I did add a few more skimmers as I sat watching the river slip by. I had a feeling I was in for something special when the sun set and as it dipped behind scar bank the country side seemed to become illuminated  by the sunset before everything went dark. As if by magic the fish population who had spent the afternoon being so coy threw off all caution and the river erupted into a carpet of swirls and ripples as they rolled and flipped in the half light. I kind of expected to get a bit of last minute action but I think the fish were more interested in having a good time than feeding, though I didn't care as sometimes it's just nice to out and see the sunset in a different place.

I don't think anyone in the world would be disappointed by that.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Blogging blanks

I personally find the blogging of blank sessions to a rather unsavoury pastime, as I assume other bloggers do too. I often feel no one wants to read about  me spending my free time hiding in the undergrowth cursing at an unwavering piece of water and reluctant fish population. But as we all know the blank days go had in hand with the red letter days and so I have decided to share this infuriating session with you, no matter how boring it was for me never mind you.

I had been watching the river levels all week first hand using the link to a web cam on the Avon that Keith sent me. After the initial rain fall at the start of the week I watched as the water rose then fell temptingly again, to the point that every time the little web cam window popped up on my screen I was getting more and more excited that the conditions were looking perfect. Cross checking the water conditions against the met office weather predictions for Sunday only served to further my feverish excitement. As far as I was concerned this was what I had been waiting for for months - my first real chance to be on the river in perfect conditions.

This where the saga began...

Upon arriving I was met with this
A coloured, falling river and low light levels. Perfect!

A good layer of mist to boot only increased my confidence. I had obtained a good range of fresh baits and it was on! For all of one cast before I severed the tip rig off my Barbel rod again for the second time this year.

After this it all went south quickly and badly. No bites came in my first banker swim and after scratching my head I changed to a different rig to enable me to adjust the depth at which I could fish the baits, to check out if they were feeding at different levels of the water.

I moved around all morning going through every connotation of rig, fishing methods and bait. I fished every bit of fast, slow and slack water I could find. I cast into every crease under every tree and next to every weed bed. But the most I managed for my efforts was two tiny trembles on the rod tip that could have been caused by anything and the whole time I had the unenviable task of staring at my busted rod tip all morning.

By midday I'd had enough and got ready to go home. All the way back to the car and later on back at home I mulled over the trip and came to the conclusion that I had done absolutely everything that I could have done with the things available to me to put something wet and slimy on the bank, but still I had not come within a catfishes whisker of landing a damn thing. As anglers we often thinnk its just a case of doing this and that on the right day at the right time, when in actual fact the possible external variables to whether or not we actually catch a fish are so large that even if you had the knowledge of every one who ever fished, there is still a chance that you may not find the solution to the problem on any one occasion.

Or it may be as simple as the fish are just not hungry.

Anyway that was my excuse and I am sticking to it... and like any self respecting angler I will see if I can get some time off work later in the week and offer myself up as a sacrifice to the fishing gods again.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Wind but no rain.

I managed to get the day off work Tuesday to go fishing and after a call the night before agreed to meet Rob in the picturesque village of Welford on Avon for an autumn blow out. Last time I was here I lost a huge fish, probably the biggest and most powerful fish I have ever hooked in the Avon. Ever since I have been haunted by the violence of that last run it made before it broke off so much that I have wanted to return to have another go, however small the chance of hooking into the same fish.

I fear the title of my last blog may have been taken a little to literally by mother nature and when I got onto the river the wind was pounding off the fields across the river onto the bank so hard I couldn't even put my brolly up for shelter. The sky was grey for most of the day but still the river was so clear I could see the last vestiges of weed standing up three feet off the bottom.

My plan was simple; put down a large bed of ground bait, corn, maggots, pellets and any left over bits of bait I had kicking around and then gamble on sitting on two heavy rigs all day to see if any carp or barbel may get on it.

As it turned out I gambled wrong and the two rods remained still all day whilst myself and Rob half froze to death as we sheltered behind the brolly, taking it in turns to hold on to it so the wind wouldn't blow it across the fields towards the village. Even regular cups of tea couldn't keep us warm and by the afternoon I was so cold I took the desperate measure of wrapping my legs in my unhooking mat just to keep warm enough to last until the light fell.

As I suspected when the light fell the tip of my dead bait rod which I had put out an hour before dark received it's first tremble of the tip. It never really went round but after two or three more knocks I picked it up and gave one almighty strike. The culprit turned out to be a small Zander of around 2lb.

Thinking that finally after six hours on the bank do nothing the fish were about to come on to the feed I cast out again into the half light. Within fifteen minutes the tip rattled again and I struck into something that felt much bigger. I would be lying if I didn't admit I was hoping the fish on the end of the line was a Zander, because if it was it had double figure written all over it. Before I had even seen the fish it found a snag in the deep water under my own bank. A few nervous moments of solid yanking on my behalf and the fish came free and flew clean out the water. My first view of an Avon pike came as she tail walked off down the river shaking her head violently. I was a little gutted it wasn't a Zed but the ariel display more than made up for it. In the net she gave me as much trouble as she did in the water. I never bothered weighing it but 6lb pounds I feel sure is about right.

After this fish I didn't stick around and after packing up we made our way back to the cars the the eerie alleys of the village. On the way back the cars heater got a real work out to warm me up and next time I am out the big coat will be getting a run out for sure.

This trip only serves to reiterate the point I made in my last blog that with the river so clear even the predators aren't feeding until the light fades never mind the prey fish.


The pope comes to Coventry canal

With Friday off to and a few hours to spare I decided to make use of Jeff Hatt canal guiding service to continue my hunt for the elusive Ruffe. I know Jeff has had a few out the cut and he doesn't need much arm twisting to get him take a trip down the canal fishing, rod in hand. We couldn't have been fishing in two more different methods. I opted for ultra light pole tactics and Jeff went with his now legendary giant lob worm technique. 

I didn't have to wait long for my float to dip though at the time I was grubbing round in the bag and Jeff spotted it first. A second dip resulted in a mint little skimmer of all of six ounces. After this the bites came regularly but not quickly. Whilst Jeff nipped off to get the brews I nabbed a couple of micro perch, then low and behold I landed a Ruffe. As Jeff came walking back along the tow path my hand went up to signal my capture.

I carried on catching a slew of perch with the odd roach mixed in for good measure whilst Jeff caught a pristine little Zander and some much larger perch than I was getting.

I only had till 10am to fish, but in three hours on the bank I had caught 3lb plus of fish and finally caught a Ruffe all in good company. And the photo shoot was still to come...

It may seem insane to some readers that I would spend such a large amount of time and a reasonable amount of money to catch what most people would consider to be nothing more than a nuisance fish. But these diminutive fellows have a real place in my heart, as when I was knee high to a grasshopper fishing on my child hood haunts I could always depend on the Ruffe to slowly pull my float under when no other fish were interested. I was beginging to think they were almost extinct after so long searching for one but after finally catching one but I think my face says it all.

I have to thank Jeff for the use of his invaluable knowledge of the local canal and for helping my rekindle a child hood experience I was beginning to think I would never have again. Nice one mate I will be the first one buying you a pint at the Christmas knees up in a few weeks.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

A bit of cloud and rain wouldn't go a miss

I don't have objections to daylight saving time, but when the clocks go back or forward the night before I go fishing I always manage to have some kind of disaster. After many such occasions on this particular day I have stopped agreeing to met up with any of my angling buddies at a specified time to prevent any such disasters messing up my mornings fishing. I did however tell Rob that I would be on the river before first light if he fancied it, and he did turn up for a chat later on in the morning.

Compared to last week the Avon looked a bit dowdy, but it was exactly what I wanted to see when the light did finally make an appearance an hour after I arrived on the bank. My zander fever is now in full swing and only the river full of unknown monsters can help salve this affliction. So I had returned back to the same area I  fished the week before for another go. The difference this week was the forecasters had predicted a cloudy over cast day with a good serving of rain to boot. Perfect for zander...

I didn't get any interest before the light broke but once it did the first bite was very aggressive and resulted in a nice zander of 4.1lbs which had a huge healed scar on its back, where I fancy a heron or cormorant had taken a chunk out of it in its youth.

Casting the bait out straight away into the same area, I didn't even have enough time to smoke a cigarette before the tip went violently over again, and I contacted with a second smaller fish of just 3lb. 

Again the light levels began to increase a bit too far for my liking and with it the bites stopped as instantly as they started. At the moment the still gin clear water combined with high day time light levels are conspiring to keep the Zander feeding spells confined to only a few hours a day. In the morning half light, then in the evening as the light fades. I don't even think they are feeding much in the dark as whenever I have been on the river this year in the dark it has not been that productive at all, so it's just a case of waiting for the right day and conditions. Judging from the hollow stomachs on these fish and the aggression of the bites they are hungry and ready to have a proper feed when conditions dictate ready for winter.

After giving up on the Zeds for the day I switched over to a float rig and went exploring some slacker water to see if any pike might be interested. I only managed to get one run and upon striking at something I felt sure would be solid I was disappointed to find no one home and a bait free hook. Something got a free meal today.

One good thing for the river fishing right now is that the dense weed of summer seems to be dying off and even though the wind is stripping the leaves from the trees all the time, the river doesn't seem to have any large amounts of flotsom and jetsom coming down it, which really helps with the fishing. Hopefully soon we might get a bit of well needed colour in the river too.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Only minutes to catch a Zander.

Since last weeks Zander debacle I have been gagging to get out and have another crack, but work has meant that I have been unable to get out for an evening session so everything was riding on Sunday. I had been keenly watching the weather forecast and early on in the week it was saying it was going to be a wet and cloudy weekend. After reading this my thoughts turned instantly to getting back on the Avon to do my all time favourite Zander fishing method, quiver tip fishing dead baits barbel style. I roped Jeff in to come along and later Andy agreed to come too. As the week passed the forecast changed little by little until Sunday became sunny again... Not to be deterred we opted to get in as early as possible, this would have worked perfectly if my new mobile phone wasn't usless and my alarm on it didn't go off at all. By some matter of a miracle I woke naturally at 6am and charged around desperately getting ready. How the hell I got up, dressed, ate breakfast, packed the car, picked up Jeff, met up with Andy and was still on the river half way across Warwickshire by 7am I do not know, but I did.

I have seen this river a million times in my life, but every time it looks different and today it looked like special, like a  naked supermodel walking through bedroom door carring a steak tea in one hand and a four pack in other. The light was only breaking and with mist rising gently off the river and rolling onto frosted fields, the occasional roll of an early rising fish here and there was enough to get any angler hot under the collar. 

Allthough I should have spent a bit more time enjoying the scenery I was hell bent on getting some baits out as I knew time was limited to target my intended quarry. Within five minutes of arriving I had two rods out, one on a complicated sunken float paternoster down the edge and the other with a bottom fished roach tail in the boat channel on the tip rod. Though the weather made for a real winter wonder land feel my hands and feet could have been easily snapped off they were so cold so I stuffed them deep into my pockets and stared desperatley at the tip.

My first enquiry came moments later as I got two taps on the tip. I waited expectantly for the tip to hoop round as it always does with a Zed bite on the quiver, but it never happened. A little while later the same happend again only this time it did have it. My stike at first didn't seem to connect so I followed it up with a second and the satisfying thump of a hooked fish somehow registered through my frozen hands.

I half expexted to see a jack pike but as the fish neared I spotted a silver flash through the clear water. After yelling to the others that I'd hooked one Jeff turned up and get a few pictures of me landing the fish. Nice one Jeff.

A quick moment in the weigh sling and the scales went round to 3.9lb. Normally I probably wouldn't have bothered weighing this fish but somewhere in the back of my mind I dared to think that in the next thirty minutes before the sun rose high enough to put them off the feed I could bag another eighteen odd pounds for the challenge point. I know it seems a bit far fetched but this part of the Avon is more than capable of producing two doubles in two cast's...

After the initial action the sun did rise high enough to warm and illuminate the whole river. At this point a quick discussion with my companions for the day and we agreed to move down stream into the shadow caused by a dominating tree lined bluff at the tail end of the weir pool.

Sadly no more zeds or anything for that matter bothered our baits all morning and it turned into more of a blog social as we stood behind six static rods.

On the way home I chatted to Jeff about the mornings coming and goings and we both agreed the the two bites and one fish had come right at the end of the feeding spell that day. Once the sun had risen and poured it's bright light into a low and clear river our chances of connecting with any Zander were well and truly gone.

But as I write this I find myself looking out the window at the now persistent rain and next weekends Zander foray seems like it could be ultimately more productive. 

Thanks again to Jeff for all the pictures featured in this blog.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Don't believe everything you hear on the bank

After such a unbelievable experience fishing the river Itchen earlier in the week I was at a bit of a loss what to do for a session this weekend. This was largely to do with my fear that anything I was going to do would pale in comparison to such a dream session that had preceded it. Not wanting to go out and commit a load of money to bait as I was feeling this way I thought a Zander fishing trip to my secret squirrel spot out in the warks wilderness using some of the bulk pack of deads I have languishing in the bottom of the freezer hidden under a towel out of Jacky's sight would seem a good compromise.

Knowing full well that we were due a sunny day I opted to drag my arse out of bed at an unearthly time in order to get a bit in before first light then fish till the boats started. Jesus H Christ if I didn't have to scrape the car widow screen for the first time this year. Not a good start!

I love Zed fishing and this year with my single mindedness towards the challenge I have neglected to really do any at all, but the twang of cold we have experienced the last week or so I think can be a real stimulator to predators feeding. It's the old winters coming syndrome stock the larder.
Over the years I have done so much Zed fishing it is unbelievable. In fact three years ago I dedicated an entire year to this single species. In doing so I discovered a few really great locations which I consider are real banker swims for the old zeppos and Sunday morning I was heading directly to one...

I had cast out in the freezing cold two rods one popped up ledgered bait and another on a float rig which I like to roam around a bit to search out the swim. Now I thought my banker swim would offer an instant response as it always had in the past, but after three hours I had only had one single tentative run which never went anywhere and by now I was scratching my head. Normally I would have moved on but this swim can produce a surprising amount of fish and big uns to, so I held on.

After a while a chap who lives on a boat down the canal came walking by with his dog on there early morning jaunt. Now I have spoken to this chap loads of times and he seems a decent sort. Upon getting near by he asks me "what you after today?" and I replied " well my good man I am after the mighty Zander" His response was that of a plumber with the smell of money in his nostrils "fssssss ooh erm well you might not do that well here. They electro fished it last month and removed tons of em. They were shoveling them onto the bank up to 14lb" Straight away I was incensed at hearing this. He went on to tell me that they had gone from one lock all the way to the next which is miles away, and all this was in order to stock a few thousand roach.

I felt like a right

After hearing this bit of bank side gossip I could not concentrate due to thinking well if they have done that what am I doing freezing my sack off here fishing for something that aint here. In the end I chipped off muttering all my way to the car.

I was going to go on a real tirade in this blog about this supposed situation until I texted the bad news to Rob who also fishes this section of canal. The ever calm Rod simply said that I should check this info out before writing anything. So Monday morning I got straight on the phone to the EA who were very helpful and put me through to a fisheries worker for this area, who told me that the EA do not conduct electro fishing to cull Zander any more largely due to it being a waste of money and time. He also suggested I contact British Waterways to check with them, as if anyone does want to electro fish the canals it would have to be them that does it or they would have to give their permission to whoever does.

Again I was on the phone and within minutes I was through  someone who had actually been there for the cull. A cull which had taken place not last month but in March. A cull which had yielded only 85lb of Zander all which were under four pounds not the rumoured tons of Zander up to double figures. I did ask the chap a few questions about the reasons for this cull and to be honest at the time it made a bit of sense why they did it; BA had a quantity of small roach they wanted to stock into the canal and in order to give these fish the best chance of survival it was decided to try and reduce the zander numbers.

I learnt a lesson here. Don't believe everything you here on the bank as quite often humans have a real habit of over exaggerating.

BUT! here is were my tirade comes in. They confirmed only little zeds were culled but I know for a fact that this canal contains much much bigger fish than that and that they only did one section of canal on a massive stretch, so when a nice helpful boat owner opens the locks at ether end which they do constantly all year on this canal, more zander will find their way in again. The cull probably didn't get all of them, they never do. So BA have just put a few thousand snack size roach into a canal where hardly anybody goes fishing apart from Zander anglers, after killing a load of zander for no reason at all and wasting a crap load of money which there gonna need once the conservative government slashes any funding they get next year.

It is about time the people in charge of our waterways really got with picture regarding Zander. Though they are still considered a non native fish they have now been our waters some fifty years, in which time with very little help from humans they have populated just about the entire Midlands canal network and any rivers that connect with them. The problem is way beyond resolving by trying to cull them. In fact it may be considered cruel to kill large amount of apex predators just to stock a few flipping roach. They would be far better off letting the fish populations in these now forgotten waterways find there ecological levels, as the fish that are born in waters were Zander are present are far more likely to know how to react to zander hunting methods than fish that have been raised in a predator free environment. And stop wasting money on such frivolous endeavours and instead spend some money on trying to stop or a least get control of the thousands of migrant workers who seem to think that our canals, rivers and lakes that most fishing clubs have worked on tirelessly over the years are there to be used as their personal larders.

One final thing I will ask of any readers of this blog, please please leave a comment if you have a opinion on this matter, which ever way you lean. I would love to hear other peoples opinions on this subject as it is something I have been interested in for years.
After such a great response and fantastic comments I feel that I should share what a ignored canal can hold and what effects a thriving Zander population can have on such a water.

So I have added a few pictures of captures that I have had from the canal in question over the last few years...

Please excuse the hats, beards, hair cuts, and face that I am sporting in most of them.

I know that most of the pictures are of larger fish but I can assure you that there were captures of hundreds of other smaller fish that I never bothered to get a snap of.

Does this canal look like it really needed any kind of intervention regarding it's fish populations.
Personally I think not.

Friday, 15 October 2010

An Itchen adventure

When asked a few months ago if I wanted to join Keith and Jeff on trip to fish the river Itchen in Hampshire it probably took me all of a millisecond to answer yes and ever since I had a kid like case of pant pissing on the go as I became more and more excited as the day approached.

After what seemed like a short journey southwards in which there was only one single topic of conversion we finally set eyes on the river. We weren't due to fish until the following day and the first stop was the pub that sits beside the river below the stretch we were due to fish. After spending two pints of time with all three of us staring into the gin clear river gawping and trying to second guess what the group of three chub would do next, none of us could stand it any longer. Hastily all of us set up a rod each and under the guise of getting to know how the river moved, we all wet a line.

Amongst the trillion minnows that attacked my bait every run through I did manage to land two small roach and a little chub of ten or so ounces. But although I never admitted this to my companions at the time I was feeling a little trepidation about this river after a mediocre performance, even though we could obviously see how hammered the river gets on this free stretch by local anglers.

My worries were more than dismayed when upon arrival I clapped eyes on what was a completely different river to the one we had cast into the night before. Muddy well worn pegs in the bushes next to main roads were replaced with manicured grass along side a pacey stream with fronds of streaming weed wafting under its sparkling surface.

Trotting I had been informed was the order of the trip and although I own a vintage centrepin reel I had borrowed a far superior J W Young pursuit II from Richard, Jacky's dad, to do the river some justice. Even just setting up the rig and plopping the float into the water to check the shotting got the line peeling from the pin. This river and this reel were meant to be together. After a few runs down I was beginning to feel like I was the gooseberry caught in a romantic moment between reel and river. But my part was soon to come. 

There is always that feeling when beginning to fish on a new bit of water. The one were for  the first few seconds you think 'is this gonna happen?' This feeling was soon kicked off into the undergrowth as my first run through in a deep swim on a bend, the float disappeared and an instant strike was met with an unfamiliar swirling fight. In my first real swim on my first real run through I'd hooked my first Itchen Grayling.

At first I couldn't believe it. But after nine more casts and nine more Grayling, this rivers mighty reputation seemed rather well founded. My first trout encounter of the day came shortly after my tenth fish when after the float buried once again my now blasé strike was met by some proper force and a brown trout of around 2-3lb came hurtling out of the water. Unable to apply any force due to a light link and standing helplessly watching a gymnastic show worthy of any circus,I was soon snapped off!

The next spot was another deep sweeping bend that turned out to be mainly populated with Grayling. Casting tight to the outside of the bend above the platform on which I was standing I could first back trot, reeling in line as the float approached, then follow the course of the float with the rod as the float passed by, then let off line once the flow off the water pulled tension back into the line, whilst all the time making minute adjustments to steer the float and line within millimeters of any over hanging branches. Every run through would get some kind of reaction from something hiding in the deep bend.

Even if I let the float run right through the swim and glide of down stream into the shallower water I could hold back hard and raise the bait up in the water just off the bottom. Doing this brought a stream of what I thought at first to be tiny brown trout, but were in fact confirmed later to be salmon parr.

Finally after realising that I had spent far to long in one place I forced myself to move and wandered off down stream investigating any interesting looking swims as I went. There were bites to be had in even the shallowest swims that seemed devoid of fish. At every stop at least one or two grayling could be taken at some part of the swim and after awhile my rough tally of how many and how much they weighed was soon forgotten.

If the first bend I had fished wasn't attractive enough the next one was a minter and turned out to be just as rammed with even more Grayling. After a further hour repeatedly running the float through I had amassed another twenty plus fish of between 2oz - 12oz. Again I had to force myself on to the next swim.

After this I wandered of down stream and became a little more discerning about the swims I trotted. This was largely due to me covering only a tiny section of river in the first third of the day. I was the only angler on the whole bottom section and wandering alone in pure heaven I peered into every deep hole and off every bridge. In one deep still eddy I thought it looked just the place were a carp or two might patrol and I duly deposited a pint of maggots and some corn tight to a reed bed under a collection of flotsum with the intention of returning later to see if any thing was around, though I never did as the fishing overload took hold of me.

Walking back up stream for our half time tea and discussion I met up with Jeff who was still trotting corn and bagging a very nice stamp of Grayling and learnt that he had lost one huge salmon and landed another. 
Whilst Jeff did the honours with the Kelly kettle and tea bags I located Keith sitting school boy style with his feeder rod in hand on the platform I had fished earlier. Sitting next too him chatting as he deftly flicked a feeder full of maggots deep into the bend I watched as the tip sprang back and forth as the contents of the feeder attracted a steady run of Grayling and trout. Ten minutes of watching and I was about to utter the words "giz a go mate" but was cut off before I started with the offer of a go. Watching the tip constantly moving confirmed the huge mass of fish in the deeper water and also confirmed that after lunch my feeder rod was coming out for a bit of fun on the deep bottom stretch.

After a break discussing the goings on of the morning for all of us it was decided that we would drop the whole operation down into the slower deeper bottom section and hunker down for the afternoon as we had all absolutely mullered our Grayling points for the challenge, and now it was time for even more self indulgence. After walking the very bottom of the entire stretch I decided to fish a swim in probably the least romantic area of the entire fishery just above the motorway bridge. With two pints of maggots left over and after seeing the effectiveness the maggot feeder had had upstream I cadged a feeder off Jeff and set up the crudest of paternosters. Filling the feeder to the brim with maggots and regularly swinging it onto the far bank, then letting it swing in brought instant results, with a nice brown trout of around two pounds first cast.

My crude coarse tactics absolutely ripped this pristine game river to bits. My next decent fish came after a slew of Grayling by way of my best lady of the stream to date. Sadly I never got a chance to weigh as I had become paranoid about these beautiful fish going belly up, which they seem to do so easily. But I am sure it was getting close to a pound in weight.

Another hour of swinging a feeder stuffed full of magoos into the river every five minutes I had amassed even more Grayling but the next bite was by far the most ferocious of the entire day. To say the tip went round was an understatement, as the tip, top section and middle section of my light feeder rod bent double! At first the fish didn't move but when it did it made straight for the closest weed bed. My suspicions were confirmed that a chub had taken my bait when I spotted those big white lips poking from under a large amount of weed it had collected during the fight. It didn't look to big in the net but when on the bank and with the weed off of it the length of this lean fast water fish revealed. On the scales it went 4.6lb though later in the year with a bit more weight it will be five pounds every day of the week.

After the chub all went quite for a while and I changed onto the bread feeder as my maggots were almost gone. Straight away on a tiny flake of bread I got a repeat performance from another chub which found it's freedom in the exact same weed bed the last one made for. After snapping off the feeder in the weed I again set up again and to my surprise the first taker of my bread flake was another nice trout.

I carried on all the way into dark with the bread flake in the hope that this swim might produce a nice roach that I had been informed frequent it by some of the other anglers who passed by. After landing one more trout  the light began to fade and all too soon the day was over. I have to say that this really was a truly wonderful experience that I hope won't be too long in coming round again. Fishing with a large group of anglers who had all been booked together gave the whole day a real sense of camaraderie and any help or knowledge needed was freely given.

Thanks to Keith for inviting me along and giving me all the advice I needed before the trip and also to Sash if he reads this for organizing the fishing.