Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Decent action causes serious doubt.

ou know you've have had a good session when you run out of bait!'

This was certainly the case for me on Sunday when I visited an old haunt of mine on the Avon. Its been a few years since I last fished this part of the river but whilst racking my brain for a reliable winter area I remembered this little gem and thought a few hours down there could be well worth while.

I arrived before first light and fumbled my way through the undergrowth in the dark nearly going arse over tit several times before arriving at the swim I intended to fish. With the fishing the way its been lately on the river I have decided the blunderbust approach is far more productive than targeting specific species. By this I mean rather than fishing one specific method targeting one species I am using a generalised method to target anything in the area.

The river looked dowdy in the dull January light, which on this river is only a good thing and once settled in I made my first cast with a feeder full of liquidised bread mixed 70/30 with sensas noire. I am glad I remembered this spot because the feeder never hit the bottom before the tip rattled. Straight away I was on the fish, and roach after roach were swung in as the sport got faster and faster.

Most of the roach were between 2-4oz but after a long winter of scratching for a bite here and there this was pure heaven. I kind of wish I had bought a keepnet with me as after an hour I lost count of numbers but I caught loads of these little blighters. 

Around nine the bites strangely stopped and I suspected a pike may have moved in but before I had chance to grab my pre set-up pike rod out of the quiver, the tip went in an altogether different way. After striking a nice dace of 5oz was landed, followed by four more in quick succession. I don't know whether the dace pushed the smaller roach off the area I was casting to, but whilst they were around not one roach took my double maggot hook bait. Then as quickly as they arrived they went again and the little roach turned back up. 

By 10.30am my ground bait was already dwindling which was shocking as I had brought about one and a half kilos with me. Again the voracious roach disappeared before the tip went with some real venom. I was only using a light feeder rod and this fish put the most bend in it I'd seen all day, and soon a much larger dace was wallowing in front of the net. As soon as I saw it I began begging the river gods to stop old essox turning up and nabbing it off me, an all too common situation in this area, hence the pike rod I had bought along.

Mr Pike never did get it and a seriously fat dace was mine! I already had the scales to hand from weighing previous catches and this went straight in the carrier bag and pulled the needle round to 9oz. After double checking and triple checking it I was satisfied it was right and let it go back to get ever closer to that magic one pound.

By 11.30am the ground bait was all gone, as were most of my maggots after switching to a mag feeder. My only option now was to mash up what ever bread I had brought along as bait, keeping back only a few slices as possible hook bait. Using this mashed bread mix in the feeder pretty much killed the fishing as I suspected the fish were following it off down stream. I could have stuck the pike rod out for a while but was more than happy with the mornings fishing and the thought of the baked ham Jacky was cooking up for Sunday dinner had me chucking kit in the bag and racing back to the car.

I was well pumped over my dace capture until out of interest I had a look at the 8oz fish Baz from Return to Ryton caught a few weeks ago. The moment I saw it on the screen the doubt began to creep into my mind about the possibility of  my scales being out. I consider myself to be an honest angler and challenger - a fact my fellow competitors from last year will confirm after I turned down crucian point as I believed the linage of the first 6lb of crucians I caught was doubtful. So as the dace percentage is a high scoring one I went back and checked my scales for accuracy by weighing first 9oz of flour and then 9oz of water on Jacky's fancy kitchen scales before checking both on my flyweights and found they were weighing right. After this I measured the length of the fish using the scales as the constant at nine inches and compared it to Baz's 10 inch fish. By Monday I had become a little obsessed and contacted Baz to get some original copies of  his pictures to try and quell my doubts.
With the two pictures next to each other I was satisfied to see that, yes, Baz's fish was much longer and leaner  but mine was a totally different shaped fish that seems shorter, but a lot more stocky and fuller bodied.

So with my scales checked and pictures compared I leave myself with no doubt that it was 9oz and will be claiming that one at 43% After such a uplifting session I am gagging to get out again soon! 

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Couple of beasties brighten up a dull day

The past few weeks of struggling to get any decent fish made me rethink what I was doing, and after chatting with Andy we both agreed that we had for now had enough of scratching around for little reward. So it was decided we go for gold and focus on some predator fishing.

The previously low clear rivers have, since the thaw after Xmas plus a week of rain, become swollen a muddy brown. Initially the rivers had been at the top of our list of venues to target along with local lake, but keeping our options open we did not decide until a few days before that we should leave the previousley mentioned places well alone and head for the now legendary Exhall marina swim on the cov canal.

We arrived before sun up and spread four rods over the canal. The weather was perfect for some dead baiting with heavy overcast skys and a good stiff breeze was rippling the canal bobbing my floats and imparting a bit of movement of the baits.

It did not take long for Andy's left hand lead rod to bleep into action and him to strike into a nice pike, which once on the bank after a slow and steady fight pulled the scales 15.8lb. It wasn't till the photos were done and the fish relesed that Andy told me it was a new PB.

Next it was my turn and whilst sitting there chatting away we both noticed one of my floats moving away slowly. The run had small Zander written all over it and upon striking the rod bend indicated this to. After seeing  what looked like thrashing on the surface I voiced my opinion just before the fish powered off.
After a while a thick green back swirled on the top and yet another pike found its way onto the well worn banks of the marina swim.

In the water it didn't look to that big but on the mat she seemed far bigger and on the scales it again seemed heavier at 11.3lb. 

After two fish in under an hour we could not get another bite between us even though we went through every bait and trick we had at our disposal, so instead the morning was spent lazily sitting drinking steaming cups of hot chocolate whilst talking to each other and the hundred and fifty other people who passed by.

We never did get another bite, but later in the morning the arrival of a crazed spaniel heralded the imminent coming of Jeff accompanied by Judy who were out for a Sunday morning walk. He already knew we'd caught from an earlier text message from myself but as with all anglers was as eager to see the pics as we were to show them. Myself and Andy had already discussed the possibility of his fish being the same one as Jeff caught a week or so ago and as always Jeff had his camera to hand. A quick comparison of the two pic confirmed matching marking on some of the fins. Later at home I to had a look at both pics of the fifteen and even checked them against a fourteen pound fish I caught in the area before Xmas but it would seem mine was a different fish. There has to be some reason why there are so many doubles in one area? My theory is that the larger females are congregating near the marina ready for the fast approaching spawning season as the marina is filled with lilies in the summer, which although are currently nowhere to be seen the roots of these plant must offer the best spawing site on the whole coventry canal.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Jeff's sunburn sparks old memories.

Its strange how seeing something totally random can cause the human brain to recall an age old memory from some long forgotten corner of your past. That certainly was the case for me when I saw a picture of a rather sunburnt Jeff on his blog the other day. Although I too have been sunburnt many times, this striking image evoked memories of an event from my youth which was a defining moment in my angling life, and definitely one that has influenced me ever since.

Young anglers who are not brought up with angling fathers or older brothers often find themselves as I was, confined to fishing waters within close proximity of home, or within whatever distance you are capable of cycling whilst heavily laden with fishing gear. These home waters if you would, I feel carry heavy influence over our angling futures. For me with the Coventry canal being my home water, it was inevitable that the hard fishing conditions of the terribly polluted rubbish filled canals of the late eighty's and early nineties would hone my angling skills towards me becoming a tow path scratcher.
Though the story I feel I must now share with you was not one borne of the hard worn tow path but one forged on a reedy banks of a distant village pond which is long since silted away from public view, and as far as I know  now exists only in the memories of a small number of middle aged men who once trod it's banks in their youth, it had just as much influence on me as the canals.

The story begins not at the aforementioned pond but much further away during a quintessentially British summer holiday at the sea side. I cannot remember what year it was or how old I was at the time and those facts seem unimportant, only the place itself and what was there is integral. That particular year my mother and farther had chosen to vacation late on in the summer holidays at Great Yarmouth. The excitement in our house had been building for weeks prior to leaving. When the day finally arrived myself and my younger brothers were wound to the point of insanity; giddy from the first view of the sea and entranced by the gaudy lights of the arcades lining the promenade.

A few days in our parents, with a gaggle of rowdy boys in tow, dragged us all the way from our camp site at the north end of Yarmouth to have a look around the main street full of sea side gift shops that connects the sea side resort with the actual town. To a fishing obsessed youngster, the gift shops that spilled out onto the pavement held no interest whatsoever, but whilst hanging around outside one tat shop waiting for the  rest of the family something caught my eye above the sea of multi coloured buckets and spades. It seemed to be a oversized fishing float protruding from one of the shop fronts. To be honest it didn't take much moaning for me to persuade my already bedraggled parents to move on in the right direction and soon I found myself standing in front tackle filled windows, above those tempting windows in foot high red letters was the awe inspiring words Pownells fishing tackle. Once inside my eyes lit up! the few local tackle emporiums back home were nothing like this wonderland. Every possible square inch was brimming over with fishing gear aimed at getting holiday makers to part with their hard saved holiday cash. For me it was no different and with my dad standing as any non angler does, near the door way with that unimpressed look on his face, I delved in. Most of the tackle was still well out of my price range at the time but after a while I came across a rack of Silstar telescopic roach poles that seemed to qualify for my meger funds. The smaller three meter versions held no interest and the six meter one was a few pounds too expensive, but if went for it and blew the whole £14 of pocket money I had saved the five could be mine.

After a consultation with my father I was reluctantly talked into returning at the end of the holiday if I had any money left to make my purchase. The subsequent days were torture as I spent the whole holiday living like some kind of monk as my younger brothers blew their holiday cash on frivolous things such as rock and arcade games right before my eyes. But I held strong and the day before we had to leave the pole was within my grasp. I tagged along with my dad on his early morning stroll along the sea front and before the shop even opened my excited face was peering through the glass trying see if there was still any left. Of course there were some left and in no time at all I had parted with my hard saved money and was marching down the concrete promenade carrying my brand new five meter midnight blue pole over my shoulder like a solider on parade.

Back home in deepest Warwickshire it was few days before I could scrounge enough cash to go and buy a packet of hooks which were desperately needed and a quarter of a pint of mixed maggots to enable me to test this deadly new weapon on the canal. The first few outings were a bit of a let down as only a few gudgeon and small perch fell into its expansive range; looking back now I see that fishing with five meters of pole and the same amount of line with a large float was probably no different to what I could have achieved with my red six foot fibre glass rod.

Few day before the end of the school holidays the news reached my ears about a pond which myself and my angling chums liked to fish. One of the older lads had finally waded into it and cleared out the pond weed that gradually choked it throughout the summer. The pond in question was simply known to us as Bulkington boys club. This demure little puddle was home to a population of what we always thought were crucian carp but now thinking back were more likely to be crucian gold fish hybrids, as they were always a bit too streamlined to be a thoroughbred crucian. Linage aside, they were total mugs for a tiny ball of  bread and on more than one occasion my friends and I filled a keep net with hundreds of them.

The next day I rode to meet up with my companions for the day, two cousins who were strangely enough both called Lee. The first was a lad called Lee Spencer of whom the only thing I can really remember was his family's sand coloured Staffordshire bull terrier that could sniff out a chocolate bar hidden in any pocket and was partial to tearing of that pocket off to get to it. The other was his cousin Lee Gibson, about whom I remember two odd things; that his party trick at school was lifting up his shirt and rolling his stomach muscles up and down like a wave to freak out the girls, and his name spelt backwards was eel nosbig, a fact of which he was very proud.

For a group of young lads laden with fishing gear it was a long ride from Bedworth to Bulkington in the half light of morning, but soon enough we found ourselves free wheeling down the worn track across the scrub field towards the bramble surrounded pond. There was only ever three places to fish around the edge. The first two were long narrow swims through the dense weed which although productive were guaranteed to claim a precious float or two, and the other was ours and every other boy anglers favourite - a large open bay were the weed had been cleared and was capable of accommodating three or more kids. The day began the same as always with a manic rush to set up. No sooner had one of us had got a bite the others would begin to ask 'how deep are you fishing' or 'how big a ball of bread are you using'. Once the sun rose high in the sky the fish went mad and by midday the keep net would be well stocked. Dinner was always the same, we would club in any money we had and one of us would ride into the village to obtain a bag of chips and a bottle of happy shopper lemonade, then race back so we could all fill excess slices of bread  with the steaming chips and make bank side butties that were washed down with the sickly pop.

By late afternoon we were all feeling a little frazzled as the sun took its toll on us and the catch of now gulping fish in the net. It was decided between to heave it out and release them to prevent the floating up which had happened before. It took all three of us to drag the bulging net from the water. The sight of all those golden fish was like a hoard of  pirate treasure pulled from a long forgotten ship wreck. We always counted them back in and made claims to each other on whose the bigger ones were. With the net emptied we set about catching again but as always the lower the sun sank on this little pond the ferocity with which the crucians took our baits began to dwindle. As always our attention span dwindled along with the bites and casting became more frequent.

Up until now I had been fishing parallel with the others in the centre of the open bay with a vast amount of line laying on the surface even though with a single swing of my new pole I could comfortably land my second hand quill float and bread bait on the weed line. I had been a reluctant to do so as the float I was using was my favourite and the thought of losing it was unthinkable, but boredom took over and I eventually plucked up the courage to make the cast. The weight of a larger than normal blob of bread carried the float to within inches of the weed line with a satisfying plop. None of us had ever fished that close to the dreaded weeds edge and all three of us were focused on the float as the sun went off the pond. By the time it moved the my mates were packing up. Unlike the normal harassing bites of the golden crucians this time the float lifted clean out of the water before just disappearing. All day I had been having to strike quick and hard to pick up all the excess line on the surface but this time I never even got to strike before the pole was severely bent over. My screams quickly attracted the attention of my buddies from the task of tying there rods to there bikes. The first Lee there immediately stated "he's hooked the monster!" I should at this point explain his comment! Like with all ponds, lakes, canals and river that are frequented by young anglers there are always storeys of tackle smashing leviathans and no different to any of these places the Bulkington boys club pond to had it's own monster. No one ever knew what it was or had ever seen it, but not a summer would go by without the rumours that some unlucky lad had hooked it and been dragged nearly into the pond before his line had snapped. But this time it was different because it was not rumour; I had actually hooked and was still attached to the monster.

For  I don't know how long I stood sideways on bracing the pole against the savage runs whilst Lee and Lee both gave useless advice on how to keep it out the weed. The whole time all I could think was 'my poles gonna snap any minute' After an age it stopped diving into the weed line and began circling round in the bay with all the force of before just minus the weed. My only hope was to walk back wards keeping the line taught as it neared the bank. The first time one of the others saw the tail splash we all went into melt down as even though we had a landing net we never had cause to use it and which had resulted in a serious lack of net pole on our part. A few frantic minutes of discussion and between them Lee and Lee agreed to screw the net onto a bank stick to try and land it. With both of them crouching at the bank I eventually walked backwards enough for the net to finally slip under it. Putting the pole down I shakily staggered towards the now silent Lees who were still staring into the pond. All I could see in the net was a large dark shape calmly resting under the water. At the time I remember feeling a bit let down as this was the thing that had beaten some many of my peers. That was until we finally lifted from the water and laid on the grassy bank. Unfolding the net I was met by a sight I hope to dear god I remember on my death bed. In the folds of the net lay a foot long dark green fish with a bellie the colour of egg yolk and a tiny red eye's. Straight away I knew what it was, but in my wildest dreams I never thought I would ever catch one it was my first ever Tench. My companions were even more amazed than I as we peered at it lying on the grass. Tracing the line back to it's mouth I found my tiny size 20 well inside along with at least six other hooks which had obviously not been tied on as well as mine. Doing the diligent thing we removed mine and as many of the others as we could though one hook was very overgrown and rather than try and remove it me snipped off as much as we could with a pair scissors. Holding it in the waters edge in the net I watched as it began to kick again before finally releasing it. For many years afterwards I regretted not having a picture of it but now I know it doesn't matter as I only have to think back to that day and I can picture it perfectly every time.

And why should the sight of Jeff's patterned torso remind me of this fateful day?!

After riding home in the cool evening air - with very smug smile on my face it must be said - I walked indoors and was met with a shriek of horror from my mother...I was beet red from my head to my ankles, apart from where my shorts and socks had blocked the burning sun. As I sat in the garden on the cheap white plastic garden seat, eating my leftover tea whilst my mum dowsed me with aftersun, the occasional twinge of pain would momentarily wake me from my tinica trance. This was soon forgotten though as I again remembered that beautiful green and yellow fish.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Looking out of the void.

As I have not posted anything over the entire Xmas period I feel I should take the opportunity to wish you all  a belated Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year. But if like me you took part in much merry making, this is probably rather unnecessary as it will only serve as a reminder that over the holidays you probably consumed a little too much and drank rather more than you should.

The holidays this time proved for me to be a rather up and down one...

Xmas eve was the closest I have ever got to the realization of a little dream of mine, of getting out fishing for a few hours on Xmas day. Though a day early it was still well received. However the results on this little stream adventure with Jeff were a little lacking on my part, as from the plethora of tiny bites I only converted one into a fish which gained freedom shortly after leaving the water.

Xmas day itself was one of the ups and this year Jacky certainly put herself into the premier league of present buying by getting not only a subscription for the Angling Times and a new digital camera but adding something that I think no other women in the world could come up with - two bite indicator covers! And for the right bite alarms no less. What a gal.
Though my merry Xmas day was about to become a little marred when upon going out to the car to head over to my parents for the day the car would not start due to a flat battery.

A few days of celebrations later I teamed up with me old mate Rob for a session on the Avon after roach. Though I was pleased to be out and see that the perma snow was now disappearing the realization that the snow melt was now chilling the water to a lower temperature than it had been when there was actually snow on the ground, knocked any chance of catching on the head. Out of seven anglers fishing the stretch only one fish was caught and it was not me what caught it.

The following night I joined Jeff, Pete, Andy and a few others at Keith's house for a celebration of iron and heat in his garage. All the anglers present pushed the conversations about angling to the very edge and made any non anglers realise that along with heroin and alcohol, angling is a bona fide addiction. For my own part I had a great time although my consumption of plenty of tequila beer and my home brewed moonshine may have been verging on excessive.

The next down came after on my return home from work in between Xmas and new year. After pulling up outside the house in the car and turning off the stereo I heard an unnerving knocking coming from the engine area of the car. After stopping and trying to restart the engine the little bugger would not have it at all. Early next morning a visit from the RAC man confirmed further inspection of the timing belt was needed at the local garage .

With no transport it looked as if my fishing was done for, until a call from Andy asking if I fancied a trip back to Stratford after roach and him taking pity on me and offering me a lift meant I was back on the up. That was until after about an hour of fishing when the local rowing knobs turned up and proved that everyone else apart from anglers seem to have no respect whatsoever for other river users. Nether of us could keep a cast out longer than five minutes as time and time again they rowed up the river two or even three abreast. Andy manged to bag a few bream to a decent size but with rage building up inside I could not obtain any kind of rhythm at all and spent most of the session on the verge of explosion.

Still immobile I ventured out onto the local trickle early Monday morning just for the sake of getting out, and much as before I got copious amounts of bites and only landed two tiny blade roach for my efforts.

So now with four poor trips and no transport I find myself residing in what I can only term as an angling void.

Though trying to make the best of things here in mid winter I have turned to literature as my salve and have reread a few old favorite books in the hope of inspiring myself for the new year, as well as looking back through my blogs from 2010 to see what I have achieved. When faced with all the pictorial evidence of what I have caught I was more than pleased with the huge amount of good fish I have landed over the past year, and especially happy to have the sessions come flooding back into my mind when prompted by what I have written about them. Seeing how, when and where I caught particular species has helped me form up a few  ideas for the new challenge this year and I find myself suitably inspired to get going again.

Whilst trawling through a old book I came across a interesting theory on an anglers evolution by a great English angler and writer who suggests there are three stages to an anglers evolution. The first is where a new angler only is only concerned by catching fish, whatever size or shape. The second is where the angler has now become more concerned with catching big fish, and the third is where the angler becomes not concerned by catching or how big the quarry is, but by which method  it is caught.
In my current contemplative state I began to wonder where on this angling evolution I currently find myself?
The first stage was well passed many years ago. The second sounds a bit more like me but I do often think to myself that certain captures would seem a little more special if done by a differing method. So in answer to my own question I find myself towards the border between wanting to catch big fish and wanting to do it in a special way.

Over the next twelve months I hope to try and introduce a little more of the idyll into my angling and try and calm the excitement that makes me almost run to the bank like a desperate child. In some aspects of my angling I want to forgo technology and in others it will remain. But more than anything else I want to enjoy my angling a little bit more. With the new challenge not forcing me to go after species I would not normally bother with, but instead focusing on catching bigger specimens, how and when we want to do it, the prospects for the new year ahead look much brighter. So much so that this void I find myself in no longer seems such a dark place but rather a planning stage for some great upcoming adventure where I am the putting my plans in place for the sparkling rivers and deep dark lakes of England and the secrets that hide within them.