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.