Wednesday, 27 June 2012

The Lake #1 Fishing with caged flowers

In the week just passed, the itch in my mind caused by my walk round the lake has turned into a rash that is now red raw from mental scratching. It got to the point where I had to remind myself of my patient and simple outlook towards this endeavour in order to stop myself over complicating things when I did finally arrive.

Soon enough though I found myself atop the grassy hill looking down towards the lake in the early hours of the morning on a cloudy and dull day. As I retraced my tracks back down to the lake the grass did not fold softly beneath my floating feet as before, for this time I was slung heavy with tackle, like some beast of burden; a few weeks free from lugging this around had given my body time to forget how heavy my fishing tackle can feel.

As we anglers often do, I had conceived visions of where I would make my first casts. This was not due to some mouth watering feature such as an island, because the lake beyond the bank is quite simply as featureless as a plain piece of paper. Instead my choice of spots was more governed by the simple attractiveness of what would be to my left or to my right. But as always with preconceived ideas they never work out, and upon rounding the bending approach to my spot, a dew covered bivvie was sighted.

Further down the track through an arch formed between two old oaks I had seen an quint little glade with short mown grass, which days before had caught my eye and now carried all hopes for my morning ahead.
Quiet and uninhabited upon arrival my second choice seemed the perfect place to begin this journey. I paused for a moment before passing down under the trees into the bank side glade. I like to think this was to take in the beauty of this place, but in actual fact it was more to do with me figuring where to place my feet on the bare earth leading down to the waters edge so as not to start the day on my bottom.

The first thing that hit me as I ventured out of the trees was that this was not in fact one little spot but the gateway to a sub bank which boasted four neat swims amongst one continuous reed bed. The second thing was what looked like a small chicken wire cage half way down the path about the size of a loaf of bread.
What animal would be so fierce that it should need it's own cage to protect passing anglers, I wondered. Maybe an out of control cricket or a shrew with an attitude problem was contained within. I had to investigate! Upon closer inspection no savage miniature animal raged within the wire. Rather it was seemingly filled with grass. Not until my nose was within inches of the wire did I spot the tiniest of pink and white flowers poking from within. The cage was not to protect me but to protect it from mine and others clumsy great size twelve feet, or possibly from the millions of rabbits which inhabit the area. 

The imprisoned tiny flower was an orchid no bigger than the top section of my finger. Call me a pansy but it seems a shame to me that something so rare and beautiful and wild should need to spend the rest of it's life behind bars. I actually decided to fish next to the little caged beauty and all through the day I pondered it in its little cage as my rods fished silently away close by.

My intention for my first trip had always been to attack from the off and although my initial intent for a twenty four hour session had been sidelined for the sake of my still niggling back, I stuck with my plan firing some twenty five cricket ball sized balls of mixed munga loosely around a marker float some sixty yards out by way of invite to the lakes illusive populations.

I would love to say that my ingenious ploy heralded an instant response but that would be no more than a common lie. Instead I sat snugly tucked under a convenient ash and watched as the wind built up through the morning and the ripple turned into waves, white caps and all.

Four hours in I was thinking I had over cooked it with my Dunkirk style approach, until the briefest of bites indicated the presence of something of the scaled variety. Thirty minutes later another dithering bite turned into a slow and steady run. Lolling round on the surface right over the baited spot out in the lake this had to be a bream and it was! sixty yards out fighting like a wet sack full of silt. A mighty fight it was not. But a mighty fish it will be one day.

Deep, long and young, this was great start to a new campaign. 8.3lb was more than I expected when I dragged myself out of bed this morning. If this is an average sized fish then I may not of been as mad as I thought I was when I handed over the money for my ticket.

Covered in a liberal layer of slime I sat smiling at what can only in this lakes terms be deemed a successful session. I have taken so so many blanks on this lake that a bite alone can be considered success. But that was not the end of it! A second dithering bite was struck too early before I again hooked a second bream. Although smaller by a third this fish was that oddity that seems only to exist in the world of abramis brama.

The poor and rushed picture gives enough of the bizarre phenomenon of the two tone bream. I have never fully understood why every so often one bream amongst a shoal of most likely siblings should be half light and half dark.

They were definately getting onto the feed towards noon but I had a date with a red head so was unable to reap the the benefit of what I had sown. However two fish and a few bites in a five hour toe dipping on this frugal old lake is certainly a good way to start, and bodes very well for up and coming longer sessions. And as for the poor little caged flower, I will stop by whenever I pass by just to have a look and watch it blossom.

Friday, 22 June 2012

The Lake

'To dedicate yourself whole heartedly to something is hard. 
To dedicate yourself to almost certain failure may to most seem insane! 
I know the lake will punish me. But still I offer myself to it. 
For I am sure a secret wonder swims beneath it's surface' 

The lake. Huge, mysterious and ever present. It has been many years since I last trod it's unforgiving banks and turned my back upon it cursing as I walked away. Since then time has passed and things have changed, maybe it has too, I know I have! The hair besides my eyes that once was pure brown has begun to grey and my once flawless knees occasionally crunch in cold weather. 
Not only has my body aged but my attitude towards these difficult places has matured too. I feel the desperate days  where my need to see a float dip every five minutes are gone, instead replaced by a patient outlook. I am no longer concerned with nets brimming with fish; rather to set my eyes on one special fish from a special place seems more satisfying somehow.
Maybe this is why I have decided to come back, maybe this is why I feel this to be a special place to spend a summer night or two. Maybe it won't have changed one bit and I will rue the day I ever thought that thought. But to ruminate over all the possible outcomes seems pointless. So instead I will go and fish with the knowledge that the lake is made of water, and in water swims fish... special fish

Today I went back just to have a peep round. To see how the land lies, or should I say how the water flows. From the top of the hill which flanks this great lake, the vista was no less than resplendent. The land dipped before me in a swath of green and yellow grass before disappearing into a row of ancient oaks which have lined the water for hundreds of years, beyond them the lake sparkled temptingly in the evening sun. I had no rod in hand but still it called me towards it's banks. As I walked the narrow freshly cleared path, rabbits of all shapes and sizes bolted into the the safety of the long grass. In between avoiding burrows, I intermittently looked away from my path, attempting to get another look at this hiding temptress who nestles in land, coerced by someone who was capable of such a grand undertaking.

Someone once asked me of the lake and I remember answering that it was as beautiful as it was harsh. But as always before I find myself unable to listen to my own advice and have again been tricked by it's blinding beauty and like some like a sailor of Homers Odyssey, I need a mast to which to tie myself before she lures me to certain doom.

As I pass through the trees I speed up, needing to stare into the depths with hope to see just one of it's wonders. My feet lined up with the edge of the bank, I stare out over the massive sheet of rippling water and although it is undoubtedly massive, it does not seem that big to me. I think fishing in the the sea has given me some perspective on the matter. Unfazed by it's size my angler sense comes on and my eyes scan the surface for the slightest disruption. It doesn't take long for me to spot a shoal of game young skimmers bustling on the surface against the ripple, and if I know this place, I know what comes soon... Whoosh! Silver fingerling's fly in all directions as the jack pike slashes amongst the shoal.

This is the first decent evening in weeks and round the point of the lake the old rhododendron wood on the opposite bank buffets the slight evening breeze clean over the lake, leaving the surface still and calm. The lack of wind and falling sun illuminates millions of buzzing insects hovering over the water, like in a fly fisherman's winter fantasy. But no trout swim in these waters for it is the home of almost black tench, mahogany brown bream and carp with lineage older than the new world. The predators here add even more spice to the recipe of this lake. It is one of those places which harbours undisclosed secrets and in my opinion, and those of many other anglers, it has genuine potential to shock .

Plans are something to be avoided concerning this lake. It's too changeable and fickle for plans of stone. I have thought this over all winter whilst I shivered on freezing rivers and mulled it back again as I warmed at home. I do not wish to make bold declarations of specific species which will well hang me out to dry. Instead I have concluded to just fish in a way that could attract the attentions of a choice few species and fish with tackle that can deal with most. It contains six species at least which interest me all of which could grow large and all of which I have dreamt of since conceiving this madness months ago.

So now that I have patiently waited for that whistle to go as the clock struck twelve on the 16th of June, I will move towards it and wait calmly for the game to unfold and whatever the lake has in store for me, bad or good, I will accept it graciously. 

Friday, 15 June 2012

Nearly back

There is no other way to start writing this other than by saying its a little more than overdue. And it is with good reason may I say! I have had at least ten days in which I could have sat in front of the computer and put finger to key, but frankly I have been in a bad place filled with discomfort and pain. Should I have attempted to get into the writing zone over this time I feel sure this little piece may have read like the inside of a Radiohead album sleeve; miserable and macabre. You see the day after the session of which I am about to write I was begrudgingly attempting to finish of our all new and recycled raised bed veggie patch. 
As it had turned out to a classical English bank holiday weekend of pissy rain interspersed with moments of blazing sunshine we found ourselves retreating in and out of the house as the showers came and went. After one such interlude Jacky and myself attempted to pump each other up for one last push by voicing such war cries as 'lets have it' and 'come on, ends in sight' 'arraghhhh.' Moments later only fifty feet from the house I nonchalantly bent over to pick up a small brick and ping! My back went like a plump cancan girls knicker elastic.
Ever since this internal snapping of only god knows what, I have spent most of my time prostrate. The thought of even trying to sit up straight has left me with a feeling of impending dread. But as they say time is the best healer and now here I find myself sitting at the key board with a slight niggle in my lower back and a walk that would not look out of place in a Monty python sketch, trying to scratch about in a mind numbed by lashings of pain killers, attempting to recall something I feel sure would have been a lot better should it have been served fresh.

I suppose the gutting thing is that the session the day before my unfortunate twanging was amazing. It was heaving with rain of course, but this had deterred all others from the sodden sandpit. Leaving me the whole lake to myself.

By my own admission I had been a bit lazy by my standards, not bothering to go out and buy a few pints of fat red magics to ply onto old red eye, and instead just grabbing a bag of Halibut pellets from the shed to soak in a little water the mould around my feeders.
This turned out to be the best decision I made that weekend as after firing one onto the slope of a gully and the other on top of a plateau I only managed half a sip of whatever I was drinking before a rod was off.

The first three fish were mental little males in that 2-3lb bracket but shortly after the last one of those was released and the rod recast I got a slower take. When playing a fish with a second rod in the water I always assume that if the other one starts going that the fish has crossed the other line. But when it happened on this occasion a quick check confirmed the tench I was playing was definitely to my left and the the rods slowly bleeping on the alarm was bending to the right.
Should I have been fishing with a companion I would have called for them to pick up the running rod but all alone in the rain there wasn't even a dog walker to appeal too, so it was just a case of keeping a watch full eye on it whilst I reeled in the first fish as quick as then with that in the net get on the other one as soon as.

All went well and soon enough two chunky examples of both genders of tench resided in my net. Looking at them both there in the water it hit me. They both looked around 4-5lb and my current tench fantasy is a double so these two combined would equal what I sought.

10.2lb was their combined weight according to the scales. The deep shouldered male was 5.11lb and the slender female 4.7lb and it made me realise exactly how big a ten plus tench really is...massive

The next taker of my crude but seemingly effective method feeder rig was getting along the right track for sure. It was one of those plodding around fights, where she just kept swinging right to left and back again. In the net it was one of those fish that looks the next size up from everything else.
Perfectly proportioned apart from an empty lower half past her pectoral fins. A few weeks ago she would have been well over seven if not bigger. But today post spawning I was still very happy with 6.9lb.

With the rain battering down I knew I was going to get a bit damp but an hour of the fish knocking the method balls around the bed of the lake kept me from the shelter of the umbrella and constantly striking into non runs. A few more dry pellets into the bucket and the breakdown rate of the method balls was adjusted enough to provoke another small male to surge off with my bait.

The last fish of the session really ran me around and in the net turned out to be a super long thin female which looked quite young. With her long length and big head she is one to watch out for in the future as if she gets on the food she could well end up being one of the biggest in the lake.

Eight fish in four hours and maybe five missed or aborted runs was quite a good performance from this lake, and not only that but the fish seem to be getting their condition back much quicker this season. Which would be great if I wasn't about to abandon this venue when the season kicks in later this week in favour of the rivers and any other places I can't access until the glorious 16th.

Hopefully I may be somewhere near fitness in time for the fast approaching whistle but if not I know it won't be long till I cast again into sparkling streams of running water, and good luck to everyone else once that clock turns twelve on Friday night.