Thursday, 31 March 2011

Snitterfield beckons

I met with Andy for a second go at Snitterfield reservoir on Sunday morning to find it deserted and flat as mill pond. Slightly overcast skies raised my hope that the better roach might feed confidently given the lack of bright sunshine which I had encountered a few days previously here.

Before getting started there was a small forgotten matter I needed to settle... A month or so ago whilst on a trip with Andy and Dave to the windrush we had all agreed I small wager of a quid for the biggest grayling, which Andy won and which I had forgotten to pay him for. Not being one to welch on a gambling debt a brain wave had struck me the day before and I had prepared said quid for payment in a special way which I suspect may have quite a far reaching effect this year! 
Rather than explain it keep your eye on for a full explanation.

Whilst setting up half way down the road bank a second wager was agreed to give me the chance to take back the prize by catching the largest roach.  This would be a wager I was not destined to win.

Again I opted to fish the pole but this time I went for the a little more of a wintry approach for this still chilly lake by way of a few cups full of liquidised bread. The fish were still playing coy and both of us had to work hard for bites, but determination paid off in the end as floats began to dip and fish were soon being swung to hand.

We turned out to be the only anglers there all day. Maybe everyone else knew something we didn't but having the place to ourselves was real treat. It didn't take long for us both to start banging out feeders into deep water to try and search out a few of the bream which were rolling at twenty meters out.

Through the day we forced some roach and persuaded some small bream that our pellet hook baits were safe for consumption, and finally towards the end of the session the roach/bream hybrids made their appearance, fighting like made dogs as always.

In my last blog I wrote of how deep this lake is and this point was reiterated to me by some beautiful little bream I caught, which when they were landed were a pale white/silver colour from lack of light; after a few hours spent in my keep net in the shallows they turned dark brown.

Another thing I suspect about these bream is that they are not as young as there size may indicate. The bream in this lake seem to have a maximum size of about 3-4lb, the average being 1 1/2 - 2lb which is nothing compared to how big they can grow. If I caught one of these fish in the river or another lake my guess would be that it would be two or three years old and it would be in perfect condition, but these fish are definitely older as their fins seem worn, and are definitely not in that skimmer stage any more. Andy and I discussed this as we fished coming to the conclusion that the depth of the lake probably limits the amount of bloodworm the bottom feeding bream get to eat, whereas on a shallower lake there would be a ready supply, hence feeding fish achieving larger weights quicker. Here the slow warming lake combined with a limited amount bottom based food results in these almost stunted bream.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Change of scenery.

Sunday was supposed to be a continuation of mine and Andy's part in the great Midlands monster perch rush, until I got a phone call from him as I sat digesting my tea on Saturday evening... He informed me that news had reached him that our super secret squirrel hole canal stretch was out of action the following day.

With all our kit set up and ready to go for a canal foray the only sensible option was to simply try another stretch of canal. The only one that stuck out as a candidate was an area I fished last autumn which as far as I am concerned fits the bill for big perch, largely thanks to its population of signal crayfish. It turned out to be a total blow out! Keeping mobile whilst fishing four rods over an entire bridge to bridge section we managed nothing apart from a single crayfish which tried to make off with my roach dead bait. Even that had the common sense to let go before reaching my hand where I would more than likely have taken out my frustration on it with a bank stick.

With three dire sessions under my belt I felt the need for a mid week jaunt out and promptly went to work Monday morning and wangled a day off. In my current fish-less state I did not want to narrow down my chance of catching by being species specific, and in all honesty I just need to see that float slide away to reaffirm to myself that fish have not undergone some kind of mass extinction in Warwickshire. With those two things as key criteria I chose to spend a sunny day fishing pole in hand at a venue I adore.

Snitterfield reservoir


This small man made reservoir nestled on the sloping orchard lined hills of the Avon valley is a favourite venue of mine though I never spend as much time up there as I feel I should. This deep lake takes ages to warm up as the year progresses and its exposed location can make it a brutal place on the wrong day; but on the other hand it is rammed with fish and on the right day could put a smile on anyones face.

I haven't visited it since summer last year and what happened to it during our Arctic winter was anyones guess, but a week or two of sun had to be having its effect by now. The depth of it even a couple of rod lengths out is shocking, so like most pole fishing the edge was order of the day.

After setting up stall near one of the few overhanging trees on the lake I potted some sensas noire ground bait plus a few pinkies onto one line four metres out, and a deposited a cup of chopped worm under the overhanging branches to have little look for some better perch which I suspect this lake may hold.

I did not have to wait long for the float to dip and my first roach of the day made its way bank ward. It was by no means furious fishing but by constantly feeding small amounts of pinkies the bites began to come regularly if a little slowly. The best roach of the day came not long in at around ten ounces and was mint, as all the roach in this lake seem to be. 

Through the day I intermittently tried the worm line to no avail but after going back to my main swim again the float dipped quickly under and my hopes of a bigger roach seemed to have momentarily been answered until a skimmer bream appeared thrashing on the surface.

How I wished that were a roach!

I managed to keep the roach coming all day and the average size was pretty good at between 4 -8oz so I was in no way disappointed. Though I do rather regret not taking my keepnet, as net full of silver makes a cracking photo every time.

The lake seems to be coming to life, the constant dappling of the surface by small fish intersected by the occasional swirl of a larger carp. Even though the sport was not as hectic as it has the potential to be I think the slow warming of this lake means the water temp is well behind most shallower venues, hence the fish are still feeding in this winter manner. So if I get the chance to return at the weekend I may use a winter approach on a warm spring day to try and locate some bigger roach.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

At the moment my timing is well off!

The last week I fished two sessions both having very poor results!

The first was an evening session with Andy on the bit of canal we have been exploring of late. It turned out to be a real rush for me to get there and I arrived just as the light was fading to see Andy beaming with Jack pike in hand, which turned out to be his second of the evening before I had even arrived. I had fished the area only a few days before and done well, scoring more good perch, a handful of small Zander and a plethora of missed runs. As I left I clocked out a nice wide tree lined area which I fancied may be a good area for bigger Zeds on my return for a night session. The cut and thrust of it was that most of the fish willing to feed where confined to a very specific area where I was not fishing and Andy was! All evening his floats repeatedly saw action until the later end off the session when his bites slowed and one of my ledgered baits in open water sprung to life as the fish seemingly began to move around. The gutting thing was that after waiting for a good three hours for this happen I really had to get going homewards. Leaving me in that awful situation of packing up just as the fish switched on.

Sunday was my only other chance to get out and although the river beckoned me to cast one last time into her flowing waters I found my self unable to go to her as an old ailment was preventing me from any protracted sessions off the beaten track. So instead I did the sensible thing and ventured to the comfortable banks of Ryton pool to again dip my toe in those temperamental waters.

Upon arriving in the morning murk the wind dropped momentarily enough for the ripple to disappear and reveal several patches of what looked like tench fizz all within casting distance of my position.I had only been cast out a few moments when a large carp breached beyond one of my rigs. It was too much to resist and I recast my rig further out on the same line of the jumping fish.

The fish were definitely moving in the area but after spending hours chasing patches of bubbles and the odd rolling carp I had nothing to show for it at all. By ten the lake seemed dead and I can only surmise that the feeding spell was over. For the rest of the morning I went through the whole repatoir and still got nothing. Again I had missed out on the party.

Somtimes it is just the way it goes; you're there a moment too late or just in the wrong place.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Can't find the three's for the two's!

With the closed season looming ever closer I had spent all week mulling over whether to chance the Avon for mine and Robs last session together before he jets off to the Caribbean for six months, or go for an easier option.

As with most things here in the UK the weather became the deciding factor. Both of us broached the idea of a barbel session, but a week of ever dropping temps got us both thinking that to go for a morning barbel session would beckon the blank so a couple of days before agreed a change of venue was needed. I suggested trying the new section of canal myself and Andy have been fishing because we were almost guaranteed to see some big perch. 

The cold wind that hit us as we stepped onto the tow path was merciless and with my thermal fishing clobber tucked up cosily at home I knew it was going to be an old school teeth chattering session. Walking up the cut I spotted in the distance three barges randomly moored exactly where I was hoping to fish but rather than look at this problem I instead decided to view them as a feature to fish too. At least until the occupants woke up and their bumping around shifted any hiding fish from under them.

A couple of days before going out I had been chatting to Andy about different method of fishing for these perch using a kind of hybrid stretpegging/laying on rig to combat the constant tow of the canal and had set up my own version of the rig Andy had used on his last session. My version, though how different to Andy's it is I won't know till he reads this, consisted of a size ten whisker barbed hook tied to a 3lb low vis hook link about 8" long with a small float stop just above the hook link to act as stop for a 3gram drilled bullet then up the line about a foot over depth was a small 2gram drennan loafer float enabling me to cast the bait onto a baited area without fear of it constantly drifting off it.

After baiting with a small ball of chopped worm and dead maggots held together with riddled mole hill I cast the new rig plus Lob worm close to hull off the boat and waited. The bites took a while to appear but after half an hour the float bobbed before sliding away.

The first perch turned out to be the smallest of the day at 12oz but soon enough some bigger fish over a pound turned up. I really wanted to explore some new swims hence no pole so after an hour we moved on to a more open swim. Again I had a boat to my right and the perch rig was again cast tight to the hull. I cast my second scaled up version of the new rig out into open water with a roach head on the hook looking for maybe bigger perch or Zander. 

Again it took a while to get some bites but when they did turn up it went mad! At one point I had just landed a nice perch when the dead bait float disappeared when a 3lb zander took the bait resulting in a two species brace.

The Zander really switched on - unusually when the sun poked its head out - and I got repeated runs and lost a couple of small Zeds before a barge passed through and ended it all. At this point I noticed a boat had moved off from the swim I had originally intended to fish so we moved one last time to have a go there before we retreated home to the warmth.

Repeating the same routine in the last swim I didn't have to wait long for the float to go under and this time I thought I had finally found a real monster perch which morphed into a small Zander before surfacing.

Little Zeds love Lob worms.

I persevered in this swim; after losing a couple of hooks to suspected Zander and landing a couple more decent perch I finally connected with a bigger perch, which seemed to be cast from the same mould as my previous brace of two pound fish. On the scales it again took the dial round to two pounds but not one oz further.

Another two!

The thought that this may of been a repeat capture was at the fore front of my mind till I got the pictures side by side and confirmed it was actually not a repeater but another chunky 2lb perch. I can only conclude that there is a class of fish in this area that has that wondrous combination of good genes, high survival rate and veracious appetites. I find myself pondering the whereabouts of the family member that is round that magical 3lb mark! On the other hand there is at least five fish that we now know of that in a few years could grow to god only knows how big all in a very specific area.

There also seems to be an above normal amount of Zander kicking around in the area too if the catch ratios are anything to go by. It's quite obvious that British waterways have certainly not electro fished this place in recent years anyway. So with that in mind I think a return trip one night this week with a bait bucket full of dead roach seems in order as my fishy senses are tingling at the thought that that there could be something very special here by way of Zander!

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Fishing in The Duke of Marlbourgh's fish pond

I have a real love for fishing estate lakes! The combination of the feeling that this lad from a mining town in the heart of the Midlands gets mooching around on some lords country pile, and the ever romantic Mr Crabtree influences of yesteryear seem to always attract me to them.

When Keith initially asked me if I fancied sharing a boat for the day on Blenheim palace lake the possibility of me saying no was rather unlikely. From the moment I agreed I went into research overdrive as I looked for any fishing reports from the last three hundred years or so since the place was built. Before we even discussed tactics a few general areas had turned up time and time again in my research. A phone call prior to the trip had confirmed both of  us were on the same page. The Perca fluviatilis page that is! The perch in this lake can grow to some impressive proportions and my bag of clonkers a couple of weeks ago had whetted my appetite enough for me to dedicate this trip to them solely.

The early morning drive to Woodstock seemed to fly by and before we both new it we were standing in front of what can only be described as the most spectacular entrance to a fishery in the world. We were first in the queue but soon enough a cavalcade of cars were racked up awaiting the ceremonial opening of the twenty foot tall high medieval style gates that were nestled between a few hundred tons of hand hewn stone. I for one expected that when those hallowed gates were opened that we would be met by a Barbour clad gent flanked by two Labradors. Turned out to be a chap wearing stone washed jeans, white trainers driving a old Peugeot that looked more like a private hire cabby than the archetypal estate worker.

Driving down the long drive that tracks the lake gave a true impression of the sheer amount of water at our disposal for the day and I for one felt glad we had some kind of plan in place. By 7.15am we were carving our way up the lake towards John Vanguards Grand bridge passing a small shack at the top of the lawn as we did.

I read a fair amount of information about the Grand bridge as I knew it would be one of the target areas for the day. Built to honour the first Duke of Marlborough's numerous victories in battle it was supposed to be the biggest and grandest in the entire land before they ran out of funds and the plans were simplified by removing the top floors. Even though it was only half completed it was still the butt of many jokes at the time as this massive structure bridged no more than a trickle of a brook which was split into three shallow canals! Whilst reading I found this quote by Alexander Pope which I felt kind of made the point.

'The minnows, as under this vast arch pass, murmur, how like whales we look, thanks to your grace'

From a distance yes it looked big.
Moored up nearby you understand why it is known as the Grand bridge

One of the things I found most intriguing about this structure as an angler was that when Capability Brown and sons were hired  to re landscape the grounds his first decision was to totally dam the stream, flooding the whole valley to form the lake, which in turn submerged a whole floor of rooms at the base of the bridge. As anglers we all know structure means fish and I could imagine monster perch hanging in open archways waiting for prey fish to pass by. The reality of it was that hundreds of years of silt accumulating meant the water around the base of the bridge was only a few feet deep and those rooms were long since buried.

We did locate a deeper channel that ran in line with the large arch and this became our target area for this swim. Fishing a float rig into the channel with lob worms as bait whilst spraying red maggots over the top brought little interest from anything but after watching another angler land a nice pike opposite us I turned to see my own float from my dead bait line zipping across the surface which resulted in a plump pike that removed the possibility of the dreaded blank.

After agreeing to move we rowed over to a very fishy looking swim framed by a couple of bare trees whose limbs hung low and into the water. We were following a tip that the lake had a good depth in this area and had a reputation for big perch. It wasn't an easy area to fish as the wind which was hammering onto our backs dislodged my light float every cast. Keith who had brought a pole along managed to hold fast even with the wind battering him. After changing to a much more buoyant float to hold bottom I got what I thought was my first slow slide away of the float. Upon striking I could feel something was attached, though it felt rather inanimate to me. As I reeled it in it put up no fight whatsoever but in the boat it woke up and became rather aggressive.

Robbing little gits!

Up until I saw it break the surface I never heard anything about there being signals in the lake but now I began to understand why the perch population seem to grow so large here. A little later Keith did hook a nice fish in his seemingly crayfish-free swim; both of us hoped to see a spiny fin and stripes through the murk were surprised to see a tench roll beside the boat. Though we hadn't even got the net out, so for the first time ever in my life I tailed a tench from a freezing lake in February.

My crayfish problems only got worse in this swim as they severed my hook links and dragged at least three dead baits down their burrows for dinner, so again we moved down wind to another likely looking spot and as we did the sun finally showed its face after a morning of wind and rain.

Moody skies

The next chosen spot yielded nothing at all but over the other side a reed lined area in the lea of the wind called us over to its gentle waters. Approaching it the wind dropped and silence fell until I managed to crash the boat straight into the reed bed whilst trying to follow Keith's instructions and getting left and right oars rather confused. I did eventually get us out of the mess and into a nice position parallel to the reeds.

Anyone would think there was big perch here.

The day before I had heard along the grapevine that Jeff had been at it again and landed a double figure Zander at bury hill only a few days after bagging a double figure barbel from the Avon. Hearing this sparked a pure stroke of genius in my mind (Yes Jeff, you are now my muse) and it was now time for me to put my cunning plan into action. Combined with a liberal handful of chopped worm my new fish tempting totem worked a treat as my float slide away whilst I was having a look at my dead bait float. A quick warning from Keith and I was hooked into a determined fish. I was unsure of what it was was and if I was honest the acute angle my fourteen foot float rod was in as the fish swam under the boat had me squeaking a bit as I have seen  tips of long rods snap due to this before.

Looking worried!

 A paint brush tail breaking the surface confirmed our boats second tench of the day and at three pounds fourteen ounces added some vital challenge percentages. I have to put it down to my new camo creation.

My new Jeff hatt camo tricked this tench into thinking it should be in his hands

We decided to stick it out on the perchy looking reed lined area and put down some bait in anticipation of some big perch switching on as the light faded. With all kinds of features in front of us we felt sure something would sooner or later take interest in our baits!
Over hanging trees trees dead reeds  there has to be something hiding here!
and there was

All to soon we stared to get the impression our dead roach lying on the bottom were receiving some rather unwanted attention. About half an hour before we were due back at the boat house Keith took a punt and cast his dead bait sans float out into the open water. This turned out to be the best decision made all day on our boat and after what we suspected may have been a ronnie run his recast bait was picked up properly. With only the bait runner as bite indication the whole thing was like a scene from Jaws as one click was followed by another before turning into a click click buzz. At first both of us thought a small jack may have been on the end of the line but as it neared to boat it really pulled back. My earlier pike had been chinned out no problem but the net was needed for this one, although the only one quickly available was a folding trout net. It turned from an unseen jack into a low double on the surface then whilst I was trying to force it into the net it became evident it was a much larger fish. Lying across the rowing board it seemed very long a rather plump! After two weighings a weight of 17.7lb had Keith beaming at a new PB and what a place to do it from.

With the fish carefully realised after a few photos we realised we were close to our departure time and quickly packed up and made our way back over the lake to the boat house. On our return we found that it had been a bumper pike day all round with one boat banking over ten fish with the biggest over twenty.

The whole day was great even thought he weather punished us at times and I have no doubt in my mind that I will be back in the summer after those illusive monster perch and probably tench as well.