Tuesday, 25 October 2011

The game has changed.

I have been out a few times in the last few days and on all occasions the fish have been rather finicky due to the drop in temperature.

Last weekend myself and Jeff visited the Avon early. As we crossed the river in the dark the water surface steamed where it contacted with the cold night air. I would be lying if  I didn't say that I for one thought it was going to be a real special session. But I was very wrong! Nothing fancied it at all. No babs, no zeds, Jeffs roach made a slight attempt at feeding but they never really got into to it.
I was lucky to land one solitary bream a short while after first light which helped me avoid the blank but honestly this not what I was after. All morning Jeff gave a running commentary on the water and air temperature which is where my thoughts on the current fishing situation have come from. With air temp of around 3c and water temp of 10c+ to begin with, both dropped as the sun rose and as it did so did our hopes of catching.
By 9am I had given up on Barbel and Zander and now chanced lobbies into slack clear water for perch. It seemed the drop in temp had affected them too. As the best I managed was a few trembles of the tip. Only a month ago that same worm wouldn't last two seconds on the bottom in the same area before it would have been engulfed by one of  hundreds of tiny perch.

Although last Sunday on the Avon hadn't been a resounding success I wasn't that down about it. We all knew this was coming and so now the game is changing so must we players. For there is no point trying to catch Crucians on frosty mornings. With that in mind I thought carefully about what to do on my impromptu mid week foray. I had hoped the liberal downpour we had on Monday may have added a hint of colour to the river. Then I would have gone after barbel, but it never touched it! My back up was to go down to the land of the giant perch and bag a few two's.

Turned out they too were suffering from early winter lethargy. I moved five times before I got a bite and had been through the whole repertoire just to get that. All our normal spots felt very exposed to me and I wondered if the fish felt the same? so around dinner time I settled snugly behind a tree and fished tight to a rusting old narrow boat.

It took an age for the bites to materialize and the first one looked suspiciously like a crayfish making off with my bait. My slight strike intended to pull my bait from it's nippy claws was met by solid resistance. Not that 'holy shit this is big' resistance but that 'ah crap I've hooked the earth' resistance.  
I hate pulling for breaks but I had no choice. But as I did, what ever I was connected to began to move. I pulled it right into the edge before it stopped when the trace hit the tip ring, then I grabbed the line with my hands. I didn't notice the group of walkers standing close by until one said "what is it?" thinking it was a fish. I knew what I thought it was, but no one wants to hear 'it's a bin bag full of dead puppies'  or 'it's a severed head wrapped in clingfilm' do they? Turned out it was neither when a handle slowly rose through the water.
I had to laugh as I pulled a dripping golf umbrella from the canal and politely asked it belonged to any of them.

Strangely the removal of the brolly didn't ruin the swim, as it's hard to ruin a swim that ain't fishing. Turned out that recovery the stinking silt covered brolly was a sign. When rain began to dapple the surface I thought this is all I need. But things took a strange turn... The rain actually brought bites. The first run on my dead rod resulted in a bait sized Zander and the second yielded a nice plump canal schoolie of 3-4lb which went berserk once hooked.

After this the perch showed, if only for a short while. I landed a couple of pound plus fish in the tail end of the rain. But once the rain stopped the bites to dried up.
This made me wonder. How often do you think you are sitting there not getting any bites when under the surface there are unseen fish within millimetres of your bait that are not prepared to consume it because of some external factor like the weather.

My third trip of this tale was one that has been brewing for a while. I have what can only be termed as a strained relationship with this moody ancient estate lake. Coombe fishery is literally only minutes from my front door and it really has potential to throw up some very special fish... if only you can get one out.
I have seen carp over thirty pounds under my feet, I know for a fact that Zander inhabit this water that are so close to the British record, that one good meal could push them over it and there is so much water that monsters of any species that reside in it may have never seen a hook.

BUT! as I explained to Andy before we went. It is a brutal water that nine and a half days out of ten will do you over and on that half day she tempts you to come back for another nine days of spanking.
The amount of times I have done that sorrowful walk back to the car park and sworn I will never return is unbelievable but here I was again pike rods in hand and a pocket full of hope.

It's not hard to see what attracts me back! She is as beautiful as she is hard.

We did locate some feeding pike close to the slipway that trickles out into smite brook. Their slashing at the prey fish was enough to keep us entrenched for a while but once again coombe gave up nothing of what it had to offer.
My time to bang my head against the brick wall that is coombe was limited today, as I had a prior appointment to attend. One I was in no uncertain terms to be late for! And yet I was late. And yes, I did incur Jacky's wrath for being late.

About three years ago myself and Jacky decided we would like a pet and as we both work long hours it would have been unfair for us to get a dog or cat when we knew it would spend most of it's days locked up in our house. So we got a ourselves a pair of guinea pigs of which Jacky had lots of experience and I had none. Over time I have really grown to love these hilarious little animals which have as bigger characters as they do appetites (very large) Unfortunately one of our pigs called Bubble suddenly passed away a short while ago and I have no qualms in admitting that I for one was heart broken. After a short while, where we let her housemate Squeak settle down, we began to look for a suitable partner for her.

Three year old female Dutch Cavy 
with First floor luxury apartment,
country retreat on lawn and condo in shed 
seeks similar female Cavy or 
youngish neutered male for munchies and friendship
Stinkers may not apply!

It took a while but finally we found one that suited at http://www.rspca-coventry.org.uk/ re-homing centre and after passing the home check we took our little piggy to meet her potential new friend. After a very successful meet we got to bring him home, and here he his:


And he loves ripping the Angling Times to shreds.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Holy crap I think I chucked back a British record!!!

It's been busy for me fishing wise the last few days; I have fished two rivers hundreds of miles apart and it has had its ups and down, but honestly all the effort has been very worth it as I have landed some some superb fish, one of which was small but turned out to be a real heart breaker!

The Avon still seems rather stagnant as it awaits a good flush through, which has to come sooner or later. In the meantime it's a case of going when you know you stand the best chance of catching. So Sunday I picked Jeff up well before dawn to drive down for a session.
For me it was all about Barbel/Zander and looking for one in the wake of the other. I was a little unsure if the zeds would have a go in the early morning as I am currently of the thinking that they feed hard at last light and taper off through the night, but the Barbel seem to revel in the dark, so the chance of a searing yank was always on the cards as long as the moon was out.

Turned out the Zander did have a brief feeding spell just as the sky lightened, where from three bites I landed two minters, the first of 2-3lb and a second of 5.4lb.

The sun came up all to soon and the Barbel never showed, but through the morning my deposits of halibut ground bait and pellets attracted the bream on mass. Four nice chunky fish graced my net and three got away but all were welcome whilst I waited for the no show Barbel.

For once the Avon seemed to perform rather consistently. Either that or after spending the whole season so far fishing poor conditions I am getting used to it.

Tuesday I again picked up Jeff in the dark. But this time we bypassed the Avon and headed south to the theatre of dreams where in the company of many other anglers just as keen as ourselves, we would again cast lines into the resplendent and ever giving river Itchen.

The Itchen changed the bar for how good rivers can be for me. On my first visit last year I had no idea of what it was like so therefore I flitted around trying to do everything on one day. This year I knew the crack and had a plan.
On my first visit I had enjoyed the beautiful art of long trotting for most of the day, but as enjoyable as it was, it was overshadowed when the devastatingly efficient of the maggot feeder had been deployed by myself.
When I left that first time there was no doubt in my mind that although the catch rate was the same for both methods the feeder yielded much bigger fish. So this time this was where I would begin.

Once everyone had touched base at the bottom of the fishery they all headed off upstream, all except myself and Jeff, who also had intent in mind. I headed straight for the ugliest swim on the entire fishery, plonked myself down and began hoofing in maggots by the Drennan feeder load. It took all of two, maybe three seconds, for me to get turned over by a unseen fish so heavier hook links seemed in order straight away.

All morning I had a queue of fantastic Trout, small Grayling and Chub ready to gobble my baits down with unabated gusto and every one was picture perfect...

I thought the highlight of my session was when my rod tip buckled over and I made contact with a Salmon which after shedding my hook performed some brilliant zigzagging jumps defiantly up river in front of me. That was until the bites petered off and just as I began packing up to move my rod went again. At first I thought another trout or chub had taken my bait as the light rod arched over, but when it swirled in the water like a Grayling I knew my first new PB of the day was close to the net.

When I first saw it on the bank I truly thought it was going to be 3lb but the dial eventually confirmed it was a PB at 2.1lb. Interestingly it coughed up a load of corn and the only person within any range of me upstream was Jeff whom when asked confirmed that he hadn't feed any corn, so where it got that was anyones guess.

Around noon I migrated up stream to lunch by the anglers hut. Whilst awaiting Mr Hatt to arrive and brew the tea I slipped into a swim after very polite gent who was off down stream. I could have done some trotting but the previous angler had been running baits through for a few hours so I threw the feeder back out.

Straight away the fish were onto the bait and after ten or more Grayling up to 10oz my first trout crashed the party, cartwheeling around like a dervish. Now I am no expert in trout but this one looked different from all the others I had encountered, which lead me to question whether it was a brownie or a small sea trout. If anyone has an opinion please feel free to comment.

The next trout that turned up was a real kipper which absolutely refused to come to my bank no matter how much pressure I put on it; but when I did finally land it, what a fish it was! A chunky cock fish with a well formed kype and an attitude to boot. This fellow was king of this swim for sure and my second PB of the day.

My biggest suprise of the day came from one of the smallest inhabitants of the river. A slow and tentative bite produced what I first thought was another little Grayling which turned into the mother of all Gudgeon which was as thicker than a sausage. In all my life I have never caught a gudgeon half the size of this one. It had to go on the scales. I remember thinking 'oh 6oz thats a big gudgeon' as I photographed it then plopped it back in. 

Then when a chap called Danny turned up. When I explained my capture he told me the records only four something which straight away put doubt in my mind. He then suggested that it could have been a baby Barbel which apparently can look like gudgeon when there are juveniles. But when Jeff turned up we all looked at the picture it was confirmed gudgeon again.
Now I know that weighing small fish on over gunned scales it not that accurate so when I got home I first took a picture of my hand with a tape measure to show how long it was. 7" is a impressive length for a gonk! 

Then at work I checked my scales against some high quailty certified comercial scales and found that yes they are not perfect at low weights, but on every anttempt the 6oz mean weight came out between five and six ounces. Foolishly after this I checked out the offical record online and found out it was 5oz dead. Yes I am gutted! If only I would have called Jeff up who had some relative scales I could have been contacting the british records committee about submitting my application, as well as getting another PB.

After lunch and spending a few hours mooching around some pools near the hut I again headed back down river prompted by other anglers descending. My reason for this was to get a spot on the weir at the very bottom of the fishery, which contains every type of fish from salmon  to carp. Happily I was the first on it and bagged a prime spot where Keith had landed a small barbel first cast this morning.

Having a load of maggots left I set up a heavier feeder set up and went to work running out my bait. I was hoping catch a nice Roach or a Barbel but nether got onto my slew of bait. But this is the Itchen so although what I wanted never turned up I caught plenty of fish. Grayling, salmon par, and eels all grabbed at my bait in the turbulent water.

Eventually I ran out of maggots which was shortly followed by the corn too. So with only one option left I started with bread. My first fish on bread was an eel of a pound. The second fish I never would have thought would touch a big gob of white stuff, though I am not moaning as it was the most spectacular trout I have ever caught in my life.

As always we left under the cover of darkness in a daze of grayling and trout plus a hint of sorrow that I never checked that little giant out before casually tossing it back. I think now after my second visit to the Itchen I can without a doubt say this is one of the best rivers in the UK. 

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Only getting silver

Quite honestly I don't know who is more confused right now, me or the fish. In moments between casts into the sea, I thought as a snooker player does about what moves I may make when I returned home to coloured rivers, the scent of damp leaves and mobs of crow cawing from roosts in the woods. Only problem was it was still bloody summer when I got back and all my plans do not fit well with this late heat wave. 

I really want to fish for autumn quarry as does Andy, but no matter how hard we tried to think of something that may be fruitful we found nothing that we thought would be truly productive. So in doubt we crashed Lee's trip and went crucian fishing on October the 2nd...

I do love a nice estate lake and once long ago the lake we were visiting was one, although now it is shadow of what it probably once was. We arrived in pitch black and after checking the notice board for booked pegs (honestly) we set off towards the dam wall.

It certainly looked the part and according to both Lee and Andy this lake held a good population of Crucians right up to big, so I set out my stall accordingly; light floats capable of detecting shy bites, centrepin reels and a veritable smorgasbord of baits.

Mine was a corker of a swim and looked perfect for a Crucian or two, but it seemed it was also perfect for skimmers, which plagued all three of us all day. At 10 oz - 1lb each they were a match anglers dream, but for three midlanders seeking gold they soon became a pain up the arse to say the least.

Confidence on all our parts of catching Crucians was high so the quid for the biggest trophy was put on the line for the biggest of the day, though sadly  unlike Andy and Lee, I never managed to root gold from all the silver. Until he had to head off Lee was on route to take the trophy north for a stint, but Andy fluked a mucking great fish just before we left to steal Lee's thunder.
Seeing it in his net I thought he'd nobbled a two but on the scales it fell a little short at 1.12lb - still enough to keep the trophy south of the M42 nonetheless.

I feel bad saying this as the owners of this lake are obviously working very hard to try and make a nice fishery(which is a credit to them),  but it is rather heavily populated with carp anglers who seem to think they are fishing on a much larger lake than they are, and show little to no concern for each other, never mind the few visiting anglers trying to scratch a few fish from amongst their web of lines.