Thursday, 18 August 2011

Night of the living Zeds.

The troublesome shy bites I'd got from the Zander on my evening session last week had been bugging me over the weekend; why I had received such tentative enquires whilst Andy was getting full on takes had me perplexed. After the early morning action on my weekend barbel foray, I had time to sit back and watch the river whilst I contemplated my quandary. After mulling it over a few times the only logical reason that came to mind was the flow: Andy had all of his runs in a area where the rivers eddy allowed him to have little pressure on his line; I however had been fishing down stream with the entire flow of the river upon my line, thus causing maximum pressure.

We had arranged to meet again to target the same area as the light fell mid week, so my chance to experiment was soon at hand. We fished almost identical spots, arriving well before sun down in readiness for the initial feeding spell.
Our baits were in position well before feeding commenced and luckily for us low lying cloud cover brought dusky conditions a little early this time. The first wave of Zander passed through just as the light went, and I could barely see the top rod without the aid of a tip light. Unlike last time, when I got the first knock I picked the offending rod up holding a tiny amount of tension onto the line by hand, feeling for the fish to move off. Bingo! It worked a treat and my first schoolie sized zed was hooked.
After that first fish, just as I expected the wave of fish hit Andy's rods as they moved upstream and he to landed one of a similar size.
At this point I was thinking it was more than likely that the shoal would carry on upstream and maybe come back later past Andy, and after he got another bite I might get a second shot. I did get a second chance but it came before Andy... A second wave of fish moved through and this time after getting a enquiry I picked up the rod, waited, and finally struck into a slightly bigger fish of around 3lb.

Sure enough Andy was next to land a fish. These zeds were definitely moving upstream in waves hitting our baits in order as they went. And seemed they to be getting bigger!
It was an age before one of my rods went again and this bite was the most timid yet. I held the rod in one hand, line in the other, for ages as this fish dropped the bait time and time again. It kept moving off then stopping and bumping here and there before the line finally started to peel through my fingers.
Instantly I could feel it was a better fish, and the bend in the rod as it plunged into the heavy flow confirmed it was the biggest of the night so far. Once on the bank it weighed in at 6.3lb. If common theory holds true that would make this fish a loner, a graduate of a school of smaller fish. All in all a very satisfying Zed.  

As always the best and worst was still to come. My final tap was followed by the most fussy fish ever, toying with my bait for a shocking amount of time. At last it began to move off and I gave it stacks of line before I hit it. Instantly I realised I had just connected with the biggest river Zander I have ever felt.
It just hung in the flow shaking it's head from side to side before moving off as my rod doubled over. After it swung out into the flow by ten or more feet it again shook its head as I held on. Then all went slack just before old bill rolled over in his grave as the worst  use of the English language ever echoed over the county of Warwickshire, and lit the night sky blue! Very blue!
Andy's prompting forced me to get a bait back in the area just in case it came back and that cast did return a small bite, but all that came of that was my night light visibly bouncing around in the dark in reply to my shaking hand holding the rod.

There was no more action before we left, but I was happy to observe the Zanders movement up and down the river, which seemed to confirm my theory about their behaviour in this type of environment. Even though I experienced that awful feeling of having lost what was possibly the fish of a lifetime, this was one of those occasions that makes it all worthwhile, and inspires me to cast out again and again.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Small windows for success.

The Warwickshire Avon looks nothing less than resplendent in its summer finery at the moment, but contrastingly the day time fishing is pretty dour. Frankly you would have more luck targeting a cup of tea on a day session than you would the Avon. It's not that you wouldn't catch anything, but if you want to catch anything bigger than a tiddler you really have to go nocturnal to do it.

So Sunday morning I practically got up before I went to bed to be on the trickle well before the sun peeped up in the east, just to be able to fish those few hours when I would realistically have a chance of connecting with a lump. Lucky for me I didn't sleep that well sat night and by three I was ready to get going. I was on the bank just before four and in the dark nearly walked straight into someones bivvy that was set up a little down stream of where I wanted to fish. Though  I tried my hardest to be quiet as I passed the mere presence of someone on the bank roused not one but three anglers from their tiny shelter. I could see the burning glows of one of their cigarettes through the dark as I set my rods up and although they obviously spent the entire night next to the river no rods were actually out fishing.

I fear putting on my headlight when casting just in case the sudden appearance of an alien light source on the bank should freak out any fish happily moving around in the dark. So both rods were cast in total dark using only memory to guide them towards the hard gravel area amongst the masses of summer weed. Feeling the leads down on a tight line both gave a satisfying donk as the made bottom on something hard.

With now two rods both on areas I was happy with I sat back and stared at the hypnotic green glowing tip lights that were attracting the attentions of some feverish bats. I was just thinking how hard it is to tell the bat strikes on the lines from any tiny hints of fish when my left hand rod carried off! Luckily I always fish for barbel with baitrunners on as I've seen many a rod lurch perilously close to going in without that bit of extra time the baitrunner gives you. 

I knew that most of the water right in front of me was clear of snags even though it has some very serious flow. Taking my time with the fish I opted to stick with stealth mode and kept the lights off in case I should be lucky enough to get a second shot at a fish in this swim. Playing a fish in total darkness is a strangely satisfying sensation as makes you rather aware of how much you actually watch where a fish is going then react to it rather than feel were it is going and react to that.
Most of the fight took place right under my feet and whilst I gingerly held on the three anglers from down stream came over to watch. As soon as the net slipped under it all three had a quick look before running off into the dark. Moments later the sound of  big feeders sploshing into the water could be heard down stream.

Unhooked I slipped the fish back into the net to regain some strength whilst I phoned Andy who I knew should be around somewhere by now and he was; just walking upstream from the car park. He ran the last hundred metres fully laden with tackle.

It wasn't the monster berty I was after but on my first proper barbel session on the Avon this year a 6.9lb fish  will certainly do to open up my account.

As I previously mentioned the rising of the sun heralded a turn in the sport and after that initial excitement where I think I may have sent any other Barbel flying into cover it was very quiet. We did get a bream each for our efforts though but as the day grew brighter our chances of any more barbel faded along with the ripples of the topping tiddlers.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Hand full of hali saves the day.

I  was going to head back into the dark on the eel grind again one night this week but a text message changed that and instead I hooked up with Andy for a predator session on the Avon. I love catching Zander in the warm summer evenings rather than on a chilly autumn ones as they give a much better account of themselves during the fight. They always seem rather pumped up from chasing bait fish around and in my opinion fight at least twice as hard as they do once the temperature drops and they become a little torpid.

The plan was simple; leave work, drop Jacky home, grab my already set up rods and kit, drive to river, park car, cast out a couple of dead's and start landing Zander.


The both of us having cast out some baits took it in turns to try and bag a few bleak to use as livos. Turns out the message had got around of what we were up to and although we could see bleak topping everywhere we couldn't prize one out anywhere for love nor money.

Andy bagged one little pike from the first area before we made the decision to drop onto a very reliable Zander hotspot where I have bagged up time and time again. Turns out this time I wasn't due a bag up session and whilst Andy got straight into the schoolies I couldn't get a bleeding run.

As dark approached I felt the looming shadow of old mr blanky upon my back and in desperation dived head first into my ruck bag to search for inspiration. Low and behold there they were - a sorry sight to most, but to me the 8th of a bag of Halibut ground bait and the 30-40 8mm pellets were like an oasis of hope as I faced that desolate road to blanksville.

The lead came off to be replaced by a feeder, the hook link was changed from wire to braid and a pellet was lassoed just before the whole lot was cast into the flow. Straight away the tip nodded but I had to wait a while before the hypnotic ground bait spread it's scent over the river floor and worked its wondrous magic. Three sharp bangs then I hit the fourth.

Not the savage response I'd expected but there was something on the end.

"I reckon its a tiny barbel"  is what I said trying not to be too brutal to a small fish on heavy gear.
"Go easy Dan it ain't a barbel its a big roach" is what Andy replied

And right he was, but what would any self respecting roach want with a big fat halibut pellet?

Exactly 1.8lb of avon finest.

This stretch of the Avon is starting to produce some good size roach and it must be attributed to one thing; Barbel! As Barbel are the new carp and every angler in old blighty seems to chasing them right now, using not the old school truncheon meat or sweet corn. But instead by piling lavish amounts of high protein baits in the hope of bagging a double (something I can't deny I was doing) and of course not only bertys are going to eat it. So these roach are living in pretty good quality water eating large amounts of free steroid like food and if they can avoid the hungry intentions of otters, cormorants and other larger terrestrial predators(you all know who I mean) then they should actually be able to find themselves in the situation there lake bound piscatorial cousins did a while ago and we could see an upsurge in roach weights in rivers all over the country.

Later on my old friends the bream moved on and I bagged a couple of plump examples up to 4.8lb which just increased the size of the smile on my face.

As I dropped this picture onto the blog I noticed something very interesting on the bream in the above picture. Its tail! I had caught this fish before on a session last year and I weighed it then at 3lb.

And that got the brain turning over too. That fish has put on one and half pounds in weight in eleven months which has to be a lot for a bream and possibly reaffirms my previous theory re the affects large scale berty fishing is having on our rivers.

Loads of birds but where's the cats?

I must be bleeding mad! Those were the words that echoed through my head as I sheltered under my all new 50" brolly on my first ever catfish chasing session. If dedicating myself to catching a big eel wasn't enough for me, I now feel like the angling equivalent of a bigamist as I add trying to catch a catfish to my already strained bank time for the summer months.

Saying this is my first attempt would be a lie as earlier in the year I spent a day with the lads on another venue; although the company was good the lake itself was awful and frankly I have tried to block it from my mind, so that one don't count.

This new venue is very attractive and even though its banks are worn hard by its obvious popularity it still retains a certain old English charm which appeals. Personally if I were the owner I'd empty it of all the annoying carp and even the cats then restock it with Crucians, Rudd, Tench and the odd eel and perch sealing it into the romance of English summer fishing. But as I am not the owner I will just try to winkle out a cat for now.

What this lake doesn't have in size it makes up for in features and chose a swim with a few nice ones to choose from. My first rod was cast into the shadows of a weeping willow.

And the second onto the edge of the only lily pads not on the edge of the lake.

I knew full well  before this trip that the lake contained a lot of carp, so bait wise I went well overboard and used giant baits to try and avoid them. My 40mm home made hali/tuna/crab boillies on one rod and a 3" Rudd dead bait on the other certainly kept the hordes off my hook baits and also kept my buzzers in silent mode.

If a lake has trees round it, it has a robin and I guarantee it will be a cheeky bugger for sure and this one was no different. When this this fella turned up like all fishing lake robins he was expecting a free feed of maggots, but sadly what I had to offer he couldn't carry off and as far a I know they don't like cuppa soup!

The session being a quiet one soon turned into an bird watching session and the next avian to catch my eye proved that not every bit of lost or discarded fishing line is deadly to birds, although it was playing with fire...

The bird parade continued all day with giant chickens strutting by.

Followed by some very noisy guinea fowl.

Midday the baliff came by on his rounds and stopped for a chat. After explaining what I was after he offered some interesting and believable info re the cats in the lake. Apparently there are only ten over double figures in the lake as far he knows but there is a large amount of smaller spawned fish in the one to five pound bracket, which are often caught on small baits aimed for the carp and one bait in particular seems to sort them out! So the last few hours of the trip I switched one rod over to a smaller bait and ran the carp gauntlet landing a string of small carp, but still no cats.

A few days later I returned equipped with the recommended baits and a lighter rod so I could split my my approach 50/50. One heavy outfit to target the bigger fish and a lighter outfit to float fish some of the secret bait off the ledge to try and bag a kitten.

Good god my heart started beating when the heavy outfit sprang to life only moments after being cast out. A slow run turned into a screamer! Something had made off with my my 3" dead Rudd........

My strike connected not with an immovable object I'd expected but instead vibrated suspiciously. Yes a 4lb carp had bona fide taken my dead bait and I was not happy!

To make matters worse it happened two more times on the trot and confirmed that a hungry carp will eat anything. The secret bait didn't work ether as every time it went in it to produced a carp. I even tried baiting a spot heavily with pellets and fishing off that spot hoping a kitten might be attracted to the noise and I could pick it off the edge but no it just brought in more and more effing carp.

Already I feel like just abandoning this whole cat thing as every venue I have looked for cats seems to have the same problem tonnes and tonnes of carp or should I say  tonnes and tonnes of crap.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Burnt, knackered and slightly satisfied

For a few days prior to the first Midlands bloggers annual fish in I was trying to think of what you call a large group of anglers. Fish obviously are a shoal, most animals of cloven foot are a herd,  birds can be a flock, mob or even a flight but Anglers seemingly have no word by which to refer to us in large groups. Trying to think how our long suffering partners or any normal person would feel in the presence of such a large group of such focused individuals gave me the answer... Bored!!! Hence forth I shall always refer to a large grouping  as a bore of anglers.

Preparation for invasion Harvington had been bubbling away for a few weeks but unlike Dunkirk this was destined to be a gradual trickle of anglers arriving throughout the day Saturday rather than a full on arrival at four and run for the swims boys. With suspicions that the river may not fish until the evening myself and Andy arrived after leisurely breakfast in a tail back on the A46 to find a few were already entrenched in front of gravel runs with that look all expectant barbel anglers get. The one that silently says 'any minute that tip is gonna whack round'.

After walking the bank touching base with some new friends and old we finally settled in an area I had fancied since my last visit to this bit of the Avon. The very point of the island with its deep water shallowing up into a fast run and its lock arm to my left looked perfect for Zander fishing which was pretty much exactly what I had in mind for this trip. Knowing full well that the crystal clear water and blazing sun where not the ideal conditions for this endeavor I opted to spend the day light hours chancing my luck for a carp or a rouge barbel.

During the afternoon little happened apart from everyone else arriving, us gassing and Andy bagging some nice pike wobbling dead baits under a mat of debris. Whilst he wasn't looking I nabbed his his wobbling kit and ran a bait around the lock entrance. Just before I gave up a little Jack pike shot out from a weed bed a nobbled my bait. Normally I wouldn't bother snapping such a petite pike but this one really deserved some credit after it tail walked a good twenty feet down the river like a marlin. 

After that excitement the fishing went into that torpid midday sun state when everything falls silent apart from the crackling of human skin in the afternoon sun.

As the dark approached I made the switch over to my intended attack and cast out two popped up dead baits onto the deep far bank. Upon returning from the local watering hole a gathering formed on the point just as Joe dropped by for a social chat. Keith after walking the bank since arriving chose to fish the swim next to me, right next to me! The sun disappeared as we all guffawed and then the pike had a mad hour as mine a Keith's rods took it in turns to go off as Jack pike snatched our baits.

The night drew in and gradually people slipped away to get some much needed rest. but for me my vigil was only beginning as what I sought would only feed at night. I ended up just half snoozing wrapped in my sleeping back as intermittently through the night my bobbins got jangled by a host of bats. My only real action all night came at around 2.30am when my right hand rod lit up with a slight run which was followed by another then stopped. Just after id checked the bait and recast the other one went the same way. Both runs got dropped  and I suspect the tension necessary to keep the baits out in the flow may have deterred some cagey summer zeds.

There was only one way to describe the look just about everyone had at 7am Sunday morning. Rough. A few began fishing and I continued but after myself Lee and Andy prepared a real cobbled together half ass fry up which I think we all suspected may off possessed a few unwanted items of fauna, I knew it was only a matter of time before we all started burning out.

Excitement had got the better of most of us and I think our expectations of double figure barbs and zeds gracing most of nets had faded and the reality of not one single 8lb perch turning up had brought us back to earth with a thump though I for one had fantastic time and really enjoyed meeting some new peers although I did learn a few things about my blogging buddies this weekend 

- Jeff Hatt it would seem has a different hat for every different day of his holiday.
- Dave has some worrying tendencies towards photographing men in compromising situations
- Keith has no concept of what his half of the swim means.
- Lee I think believes his warranty on his bite indicator may still be valid after he attempted to repair it in the dark after drinking all afternoon in the blazing sun
- Andy when he asks if you want one sugar or two in your tea is referring to kilos not spoonfuls
- Joe was much taller than I thought in real life; Steve was a little shorter.
- Martin believes pike are baby's at 12lb.
- Dan should listen to Jacky when when she suggests he takes some sun block with him fishing.

For the next fish in I would like to suggest that the nearest or first person to the chosen venue should climb the highest point and summon us all using a large alpine horn of sorts, as this I feel is the only appropriate way to bring to together such a melé of a bash.