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.