Friday, 24 June 2011

Panning for gold

They say you need a good breakfast to start the day, a fact I certainly believe in. But a lesser known fact I also believe in is that to start your day or fishing session you need a good sound track to get you into the right state of mind.
Personally I have a rather varied and encompassing  musical taste, and on any given journey to water I could find myself listening to anything from the Rolling Stones to Bentley Rythm Ace, right through the Rat Pack before coming back via Amy Winehouse. 
Sitting in the car I flipped the leaves of my CD collection and happened upon on perfection for the journey ahead. What else could I listen to as I cruised into the Warwickshire country side but the waling tones of the 1960's psychedelic rock legend that was Janis Joplin. 

Having finally arrived after giving the steering wheel as much of a battering as the car speakers I descended the  tree shrouded drive turning off the music as I did, as this is the point where I move from the outside world into a tranquil world of angle... Oh and I didn't want to piss off anyone already fishing as I traversed the lake side road by Janis screaming ' Take it, take another little piece of my heart' as they tried to hold their pole steady.
Turned out I hadn't of worried as I had the whole lake to myself all day: 'Score!'

On the way there I had listened to 'summer time' the song and technically it is summer time here in the UK if you'd believe it, so today I intended to angle for the epitome of English summer species: Crucian carp.
Unlike so many of the other species that I pursue Crucians don't seem to care how hot it is or what time of the day they feed. In fact in my experience on a lot of lakes they actually prefer it to be hot and stifling. I suppose this is largely to do with their uncanny ability to live in water with practically no oxygen it. They are hardly caught before the frosts end and once the first chilly nights of autumn arrive they once again become scarce.

Feeling a little classical I had opted to fish some classical kit by way of my old speedia centre pin and a old school quill float. I would have included my 13 foot billy lane cane match rod in that but sense had prevailed as a day of holding that beast is by no way relaxing...

A little bit of this bait scattered in followed by a little of that and I was off. First cast I could say that the bait never got to the bottom before it was taken, but that would be a lie, as to say this the bait would have had to got past the top, which it didn't! The first fish of the day was another summer classic, a Rudd which snatched it the instant it hit the water.

Hungry and perfectly formed there was masses of them within inches of the surface.

I had to box clever here or the voracious horde would hamper my chances of going for true gold. The answer came by way of two pints of red maggots which I began to dispense onto the water a rod length off my chosen spot. 
It did work to some extent as my baits were at least hitting bottom but still I had no choice but to wade through the masses of roach, bream, perch, Rudd and micro tench with my float dipping within seconds of the bait sinking.

As the sun neared overhead I caught sight of something very interesting. A pod of three lovely golden crucians swam bold as brass right in front of me only two feet from the bank. What happened next was pure wonder! When baiting my swim, I had done it from a little to the right of where I was actually going to fish and seemingly some of the bait had fallen in the edge and probably a bit short of the intended mark. As suddenly as they appeared they stopped in unison, all dipped and began to pick up the freebies. I watched as the pod followed the measly trail into deeper water towards my bed of waiting goodies. Sure enough moment after they disappeared into the abyss a gentle dip of my float was followed by it slowly sliding away.

I managed to pick two of them out before they seemingly slipped away to be replaced by the hungry horde again. But that little tiny insight into there movement was just too telling. As I topped up the feed I scattered a hint of bait purposely this time in a line ninety degrees from the bank leading again to my baited area.
It worked a treat and through the afternoon more pods of between three and five fish cruised into sight before duly stopping over the bait and changing course towards my trap.

Ten in total graced my net and of them, seven were some of the grand old fish that inhabit his lake; the other three were a few of the new smaller stock which was added earlier this year. I saw these tagging along behind the big boys learning the lay of the land and they will soon enough reinvigorate the ageing stock.

A photo of summer

I can't deny it. I am a sucker for a brace shot

Aside from a great catch of Crucians I caught a shocking amount of fish whilst trying to extract that streak of gold. I didn't bother to net anything other than the Crucians but I landed well over twenty small bream between 1.5lb and 3lb, an easy15-20lb of Roach, Rudd, perch, tiny tench and one of the roach topped the scales at 1.2lb.

I have to say that Snitterfield reservoir is fast becoming the jewel in the crown of LAA and to any other Leamington members. "Snitters is on absolute fire at the minute so if you want to bag up in a monstrous way get down there and don't forget some serious bait as it took me two pints of red maggots, 1.5 kilos of pellets and a couple of bags of ground bait to winkle out that lot".

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Not really a glorious start to the season.

The onset of June 16th saw what I can only describe as a mass holding of breath by the river enthusiasts of the UK. This necessary break (which I personally whole heartedly support)  not only gives the fish a break to spawn but also affords us anglers an opportunity to rekindle our passion something which diminishes over a cold winter as we become blasé about flowing water towards the end of the season. The build up is as ever filled with plans and excitement of what we are going to do on that sacred first day.

I myself have in pretty much the entirety of my working life never worked this day as for me not being of a particularly religious nature this is the closest thing I have to a holy day. But this year things were ever so slightly different! When ever the holiday charts appear at work I am the first person at the office door ready to book the 16th of June off. This year having already booked it a fly plopped into my ointment by way of a begging boss. Turns out the only dates my direct superior could get off passed over my holy day and as I was the poor sucker who had to cover for him I was forced by hook or crook to relinquish this day in order for him to jet off for two weeks.

My tales of woe regarding this only get worse as in the week and a half leading up to the 16th I managed to bag an impressive 120 hrs work in ten day straight days. To be honest my fishing was knackered as I was. I had managed to squeeze two eel blanks somewhere in the haze of work but honestly even now I can't remember a thing about them.

There was no way I was missing out on the first day. 

Oddly even though we all get rather mental about this day, the fact is it is generally a bit of a let down catch wise. A fact that I have always suspected that can be attributed to us anglers. For three months the inhabitants of our clear rivers see nether hide nor hair of us until the break of dawn on the 16th when from nowhere anglers pop up everywhere on the rivers like a case of chickenpox. Chickenpox tooled up with wholesale amounts of bait which is scattered liberally upon the river in the hope of relieving it of something special. From only natural food to hundred different flavours of ground bait and every possible connotation of freebies mixed in with it in only a few hours. Its no wonder they play hard to get!

With no day to waste lazing beside a river blanking, an evening trip down to the ever fickle wasperton stretch of the Avon seemed the best option.
The journey there was like an abridged version of some kind of fairy tale; travelling through the thronging masses of metal giants through Radford and Holbrook saw me meet Jeff of Hat at the junction where the Saracens head faces Londis; the next leg of our quest we journeyed the long distance from the west of the midland deep into the shire know as warks where in a sunlit field we happened upon Keith of Jobling and a man I know only as Thad. After swapping tales myself and Jeff of Hat continued on down stream beyond the village wasperton to the wooded banks of the slow stretch in search of  Andy whom had ventured forth ahead of us to bag himself a spot to stalk the piscatorial delights which lay ahead of us.

We did eventually find Andy setting up in a rather nice lily lined area which looked as special as it did snag filled.   

I know this bit of river only too well and as a consequence was in no rush to cast out, as it fishes best as the light fades and the fish begin to top. Beyond that during the day any chancing anglers would be forgiven for thinking it has no fish in it whatsoever.
Mine and Jeff's reluctance to start was much to Andy's advantage as the discovery of a broken rod tip was a real downer until Jeff offered to do a bank side repair for him to get him through the evening.

I eventually did set up in a odd swim behind the roots of a fallen tree in an area of the stretch I have never fished. It was a cracking view with a tempting looking over hanging tree brushing the water on the opposite bank which screamed barbel.

True to form all bar Andy had to wait for bites, but as predicted once the rings off topping fish dappled the surface our baits began to receive some attention. I was however the last to actually connect with a fish as finally after loads of trembles one of my rods went over.

Jeff appeared just as the fish surfaced and oddly we both came out the same insane statement that for a fleeting moment it looked like a massive crucian carp... It was actually a youngish bream whose colour seemed rather golden in the evening light. 

If it was a rare river crucian I would have no word of a lie, wet my pants as the chubby little fella weighed four pounds ten. We stuck it out until late but the ever moving shoals of bream here are hard to hold in one place unless you have half a ton of bait to do it with.

New season Part 2

The weekend was soon upon me and Fathers day meant limited fishing time so my options were constrained, so a early jaunt to a secluded narrow run on the top meadow seemed a great idea.

I love this bit of the Avon as it's classic barbel river. fast shallow gravelly runs framed by low hanging willows and those bites.... Savage is the only way to describe them. 

The mist clad river looked good with a hint of colour flushed in by showers of summer rain. As I trudged across the damp grass I spotted a very unusual sight at the end of the meadow. Normally this field has a running occupancy of maybe two anglers and a herd of nervous sheep but today it had me and what looked like a a few miles of warning tape stretched around it.

Something was definately afoot and the turning up of a truck loaded up with what looked like marquees confirmed there may well be some kind of olde English style fete happening in this field today.
I decided to have a few hours anyway and cast in. From the corner of my eye I kept seeing cars arrive here and there... By six it was busy and finally it clicked I was actually fishing at the start of the Stratford upon Avon  raft race.

As the competitors arrived on mass the tannoy started to sound intermittently with ear screeching feed back and I knew my chances diminished by the second.
The only action my rod tip showed for the whole time I was there was when it suddenly sprang forward and pinged back as what I suspect was a fleeing fish charged upstream past me. I didn't know weather to laugh or cry as I sat watching more and more people arrive in the field. So I laughed loudly which seemed to erect some kind of invisible barrier around me as watchful parents told there children to stay away from that nutter over there.

In the end I gave in as the now water bound rafts were sending sea worthy waves upstream. 
Leaving I stopped and took this picture of what can be described as a festival size crowd of people over the field. You would be forgiven for thinking U2 may have added wasperton as an impromptu stop on their 2011 festival tour. As I walked away I felt no ill will towards this session ruining gathering as I knew from the interview conducted over the load speakers as I packed up that it was all in aid of a good cause

For about the tenth year of my fishing life the barbel buffoonery has begun again... and the I feel sure the next few months will see me finding myself in some of the most preposterous situations known to angling as I try to bag my target of a double figure beardy.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Pest or not?

Q. What makes something a pest?

This was a question I posed to myself as I stood awaiting a run in the dark on the canal the other night.
I myself as I leave the house laden with tackle and a sarnie in my mouth often just say to my beloved "I am off fishing see you later" and therein lies my point. Fishing! I rarely say I am off  eel fishing, carp fishing or Zander fishing. I just say fishing. Therefore all I am making point of is intend to try and catch fish not anything specific.
Now in my own mind I know that there is normally in my day to day fishing some kind of target species that I am aiming for, as I was on this particular session targeting eels, but realistically we can never use one so specific tactic that will only catch one species and one species only whilst avoiding all others, That's probably a good thing to be honest, as how often can any angler actually say that when looking down the barrel of a blank or skunk or whatever you want to call it on a bad day that you wouldn't give anything to catch even the most annoying of pest species, just to feel even the smallest fight of a fish.

But on the other hand when the fishing is good and all you can catch iswhat you're  not looking for, everything suddenly becomes a pest.

The other night is a great example for me because after all of ten minutes one of my rods ripped off and I found that the cause of this monstrous run was in fact not the ten pound eel I was hoping for but a tiny Zander. Now for me the first fish gets a pass because it took away the chance of me encountering old Mr blanky but after two more exactly the same size they suddenly became a pest.

I love catching Zander but when eel fishing they truly are a pain... but add eight pounds and it ain't a pest no more!

The next pest that picked up my 2oz dead roach really whacked off even more than the first three. Now this was defiantly not an eel so technically that made it a pest on this trip.

Pest or not?
(excuse the poor pic. Me the the camera were not on good terms for that one)

As the light faded the next wave of pests came out to play and my rod tips began to bounce like the rear suspension of a car parked in lovers lane. I knew what was going on and it was only a matter of time before one came bankwards.

The crayfish were on the town tonight and boy were they hungry! They took every thing that went in the water, even grabbing baits before they hit bottom. I landed about seven or eight of the horrid little buggers and whilst trying to detach one huge example from my line I caught wind of a rather bad pong. Initially I thought I had stood on a pile of dog walkers surprise in the dark but soon realised it was actually the Ronnie that stank (If anyone has any explanation of why it should stink please let me know) so it was unceremoniously kicked back in. An hour of bounce bounce bounce and beep beep beep and I could stand it no more and left eel less once again.

Somewhere in the crayfish meleé I did however think of an answer to my own question of 

Q. what makes something a pest?

A. We do.


There was something I meant to share with all my fellow anglers on my last blog but felt that before I made mention of it that it needed a bit more research and Field testing.
On my last few sea trips I have struggled to shift the determined aroma of bait from my hands as it reeks (a fact Jeff off of Idlers Quest a avid sea angler will confirm for sure) and whilst trying to find a hardcore detergent I found this stuff.

And it is brilliant!!! It shifted crab, squid, rag worm and lug worm stink no problem. Having now brought it home and tried it on several flavours and baits including the source which is a renowned stubborn one I feel confident to recommend it to anyone. And not only does it work but the other half will not object to it gracing the kitchen sink unlike a trade size pot of swarfega.

Happy hand washing.

Friday, 3 June 2011

The older Dan and the sea.

"Every time I cast into to the sea I find myself falling further under it's spell. Nowhere else feels like it; It's alive! Each visit reveals more of its ever changing environment and the species that are present at any particular time of year. The tides intrigue me the most. I hope to one day understand them. Though I believe I, nor anyone else for that matter will ever truly understand them. But most of all each time I go my passion grows and I know for certain I will be back, for I am drawn to it."

After an early journey east we unpacked and got settled in our accommodation on the Suffolk Norfolk border. It wasn't long after the last thing was out the bags that I was off with Jacky in tow to try and source some free bait for the week ahead. Before leaving home I had heard via the blog grapevine that the crabs were on the moult and I fancied my new crab trap might obtain me a few from the structured waters of  Lake Loathing which was conveniently a five minute walk away.

I know the clear shallow waters of this salt water lake are rife with crabs, but would I be able to nab a few? No was the answer to that! Crabs I caught, but were any of them peeler's? Were they heck! In three hours I'd bagged three hard backs and lost two more who were clever enough not to enter the net.

I am no expert at distinguishing a peeling crab from a hard back but I soon discovered the difference. The moulting crab which are referred to as peelers are shy and retiring due to their soft bodies, whereas a hardback is the hooligan of the Crustacea world, nipping anything that draws too close.

My crabbing attentions were soon lost when I sighted a pair of large mullet circling some pilings nearby. Both were close to ten pounds and both thought my vain attempts to get their attention with a strip of squid cast out under a float were comical. A fact confirmed by their ever seeming smirking lips.

- My first proper session came first thing Sunday morning when I dared to venture out into the by now horrendous 30 mph south west wind. I arrived at Pakefield beach early to fish the end of the flood tide and down the ebb for a few hours.
My first cast was pitched full force straight out in front of me and splashed in twenty metres to my left. This was by no way going to be an easy session! I endured only an hour of battling with the wind as it tore my rods down and put so much of a bow in my lines that it dislodged up to 8oz of lead from the bottom.

Not wanting my first trip out to be a total loss I upped sticks and headed up the coast to try the more sheltered waters of Lowestoft harbour. The outer wall was even worse than the beach, but fishing into the mouth of the harbour afforded me enough cover to at least hold bottom.

The change of venue had made no difference to my catch until I dropped a much shorter cast close to a tidal defence barrier. After only minutes the tip rattled the went over and stayed bent over. My hope that good fish my take interest in my bait was vilified as the beastie pulled back. As I reeled it towards the wall I kept hoping I would see a flash of silver in the water until I got the distinct feeling this fish was swimming backwards!!!
Damn right it was! My first sea bound eel was swung in at about a pound, it was followed quickly by two more, the best being 2.1lb. If dealing with a eel is not hard enough try adding three snoods, a heavy grip lead and a gusting wind mixed into the equation.

After this I did add a couple of small whiting but the biggest stir of the day was caused when I threw the eels back in, much to the dismay of some eastern European anglers; one quite literally threw his arms in the air whilst cursing me in some foreign tongue.

- My next session was due Monday afternoon and I had even roped Jacky in for a trip to the beach but we only got as far as the cliff top car park before I set eyes on the now tempestuous sea and thought better of it.

After making a hasty retreat I did what any self respecting angler would and went back to holiday diggs and spent the afternoon waiting out the weather in the steaming turbulent waters of our hot tub.

I waited and waited and waited a little bit more for the wind to calm and finally at that time just before the light went I nipped to another mark called the Rifle Range for as I described it to Jacky "to get in even one good cast". Just before the dark crept in and during a evil shower of rain my freshly bought peeler crabs did the trick as the left rod began to nod in the failing light.

In the surf I potted something silver flash but as it came up the beach the rig seemed to still be dragging badly until I spotted a something flat and dark flapping close to the lead. My first double shot of the trip produced a small whiting and a nice flounder.

To be honest that was enough for me. I was cold and wet and with no form of shelter on the beach it was time for the off, satisfied with a single bite for two fish on a day when even the locals were rather absent from this popular mark, There was was only one way a true English man can warm himself on such a night.

A cup of tea and cream scone!

- The next outing saw me return back to Pakefield with a freshly acquired store of crab to chuck into the brine. Before this session I had put two and two together and realised that as the crabs were moulting and the best bites I'd had came on them  that the fish may be a little preoccupied with them and other baits may prove fruitless.

I was right! My first chuck onto a much calmer sea didn't take long to get rattled, resulting in a nice plaice and it didn't stop there. For the first time ever on the sea it was a bite a chuck. Not one cast failed to receive attention of some kind.

The next customer was a nice flounder

Followed by another

And another

It was real joy to see what seemed like healthy population of flatties really going for it and not one of the was caught any further than thirty yards of the beach. It was great fun and luckily I had Jacky on hand to bag some great pictures of em all.

- On the Wednesday I turned thirty four (I think!) and as always my first choice of what I would like to do is go fishing. I had pre planned this trip to head down the coast the the uber quaint Southwold to try these hallowed waters for the big bass that supposedly exist there.  

Conditions looked great, the sea looked great, I was in a good area and I had a bucket full of crab how could it go wrong, but it did! I couldn't buy a bite and nether could two other anglers further down the beach.
Like every other angler I can take a blank here and there, BUT! I do not take the birthday blank well, if at all.

By 5pm I'd fished the last part of the flood tide, the slack and two hours down the ebb and had absolutely nothing to show for my efforts bar good case of wind burn. At this point I had to do something and made the snap decision to head north wards back to fish a more reliable mark.

After dropping Jacky off I rushed down the to Pakefield to try and make the best of the day.
The sport here wasn't much better and soon I found myself in a Mexican stand off with the north sea. It wasn't yielding and I wasn't leaving till I felt the wet slap of fish on my hands.

Finally after what seemed like hours the tip trembled and I struck. Again for the second year running I landed a single fish on my birthday. A perfectly formed plaice.

After this I cut my losses and left, calling in to pick up a bit of ironic supper on the way back!

How could I not?!

- By Thursday I had figured that most of the areas I had been fishing the last few days fished best from the slack down the ebb tide, so I waited till evening to take the last of my peelers on a day trip to flattieville.

There is no more punishing place than the coast in bad weather. Caught in the no man's land between the land and the sea. On land the differing pressures effect the weather and as it meets with the open and more consistent pressures of the sea it seems ether collide with it violently or get sucked out to sea speeding up as it does. 

It had been sunny all day but the weather report had indicated a weather front would move eastwards into the evening and it did just after my second rod was cast. The sky darkened and the wind picked up stirring a healthy swell.

The rig of my left rod held well under the crashing waves but my right one even with a heavier lead was being pulled by the receding tide and kept get deposited back on the beach. With it now pouring with rain it was struggle to get it to hold at any range. But it seemed to work to my advantage a little as this was the first rod to go when a nice flattie grabbed the moving bait as it passed it.

It didn't take long for it to find a second and as I was baiting up to recast, the still fishing rod went mental. It literally hooped over instantly and was lifting off the rest before I was to my feet.
I was straight away into something better which really gave me some stick in the fast falling tide. The weird thing was as it neared the surf it seemed to be swimming in two separate directions, and it was.

A flash of silver confirmed it. Bass! Not one but two. My first ever double shot of bass scored for a rough sea whilst soaked to the skin.

An absolutely stunning a pair of beautiful schoolies one of about a pound and a half the other just under three. I went home that night as high as a kite and happy as a dog with two.... peters.

- After the highs of Thursday I could have stopped there but I still had bait and Jacky fancied the beach so what could I do but fish. The weather was good, the sea calm and I was happy.

It was no red letter day. More a good bye for now to the sea, but I did manage to eek out one last flounder on my very last crab which seemed a good way to end a great trip east. 

- That should have rightfully been the end of this one but, whilst away and having a pocket full of birthday pennies, I made pilgrimage to one of the fast appearing Angling Direct stores, which are spreading over the east like a case of acne on a teenage boy.

I went with the express purpose of obtaining a new umbrella to replace my still unretired one, but....

And here it is!

Yep you got it they didn't have the umbrella I wanted so I settled for a gleaming new pair of  Korum KXi 60 freespin reels.

Like anyone I could wait to use them. So I did before the sand was even off my feet. And how did they go on the first run out?


Very well!

6.6lb tench first cast. :)