Friday, 30 November 2012

Putting time to good use.

I don't know if anyone's noticed but just about every bit of water in the UK right now is, how can I put it, a little off colour. We live in a pretty much permanently damp country but this is one of those times that gets everyone mumbling 'It could be 2007 all over again', with even the tiniest of trickle now doing its best to impersonate mighty rivers like the Volga or Amazon. Still water would be the only sensible options. That's if you have the time, and right now and I don't.

You see my only free time that I had allotted to try and squeeze in a cast or two this last week or so, coincided with the next heavy band of weather to strafe middle England  It was hard decision to make as I'm normally a 'go anywhere in any conditions' kind of angler, but a few hours fishing in torrential rain and gusting winds, fishing into dark seemed, well, not quite worth it, so I decided to give this one a miss.

Though lacking in fishing I was not about to just sit around griping, and instead opted to use the allotted time to instead get some necessary prep work done for when I can get out. Working full time and trying to fish as much as I can whilst maintain a healthy relationship with my better half,  I often find myself burning the midnight oil to get necessary jobs like these done. But with time on my hands it was time to make some traces for the Zander fishing of which I intend to do soon.

Years ago when when I first began predator fishing I bought traces from the local tackle shops but it did not take me long to realise that although reliable, they were expensive and also generic. I suppose it's like anything, but when you spend any time doing a lot a certain type of fishing you begin to see that the tackle you are using could be refined more to your own purpose and needs.

Nowadays the idea of buying a trace from the tackle shop would just seem like insanity to me, as the ones I make cost only a quarter of the price but have been honed to suit species, venues and method. Not only this but even just repeatedly casting traces they get damaged and kinked, hence many changes are often in order; making your own after an initial larger investment reduces the overall costs vastly.

A few weeks ago I was picking up some new floats from Merv of Wilkie's Weights. Whilst we were going through some of the products he makes, he showed me some zander hooks he has, and the moment I saw them I had to have some, especially at the price which he sells them.

I am a single hook believer as far as zander are concerned. Very early on when I began fishing for them I sidelined trebles in favour of a single large hook. As far as patterns go I have tried just about everything available on the market, from large carp hooks right through sea fishing hooks and the one I have found  that are by far my favourite is the o'shaughnessy pattern hook.

Though the only thing that lets this pattern down for me is the length of the shank! I have and still am searching for the holy grail of the sacred short shank version which supposedly exists, but which I am yet to locate. Although these new hooks supplied by Merv look the part and I can't wait to give them a go!

I know everyone has their own ways of doing things and that some might read this and totally disagree with how I make my traces, but I had some new ideas that in conjunction with how I normally make traces, may help me and others whilst zander fishing. Hence I thought whilst I am knocking up a batch of shiny new traces I would show you an easy way to make them, and what I use. 

A few things you will need to knock up a batch of traces

Step 1 =  Pull some wire off the spool but don't cut it. Form a tiny loop in the end of the wire using the spinning method.

Step 2 = Thread the loop through the eye of the hook, making sure it exits at the back of the hook

Step 3 = Pass the loop over the point of the hook

Step 4 = Pull the wire back through the eye bedding the loop over the shank of the hook.

Step 5 = Pull off the required length of wire for the trace plus a little bit extra from the spool and cut the wire using nail clippers. Once this is done thread a crimp along the wire and over the twisted section of wire and crimp in place. 

Using both the twist method and a crimp results in a very stiff section at the end of the trace. I have found this helps reduce tangles and is more than secure enough attachment for the hook.

Step 5 =  Thread a second crimp onto the wire then form a larger loop in the other end again using the spinning method. Once this is done pull the loose crimp over the twist and crimp it into place then trim any excess wire off.

Most people would usually attach a swivel to the end of the trace. Forming a loop it gives me the option of using a long bait needle to thread the trace through a dead bait, have the hook protruding backwards from the mouth of the dead bait and the trace exiting at the tail end. This means you can strike the run very early with full confidence that the hook is in the zanders mouth.

The finished trace is simple, inconspicuous, cost effective and can be removed very quickly for unhooking or to exchange it for a fresh one should it become kinked. 

Step 6 = To attach the trace to my mainline I use a Fox quick change swivel and one of the rubber sleeves to secure it. These tiny and tangle free little swivels systems are designed for fighting big carp and are more than strong enough to deal with the biggest zander likely to be encountered.

Whenever I go zander or pike fishing for that matter I always make sure I take plenty of traces as quite often a lot of action can come along in a short and specific amount of time. So having many quick changes of traces to hand gives you a much better chance of bagging up when the fish are on the feed rather than having to fiddle with making traces on the bank.

The best storage solution I have found for my traces is these trace bins. They are cheap and can store a large amount of traces in a tangle free manner which does not take up much room in the tackle bag.

I hope this has been a help to anyone who reads it and was considering making their own traces or even to anyone who already does and finds even the slightest bit of information that helps in their fishing. If it enables one reader to get even one more bite or land one more fish it will be more than worth my effort writing it. Tight lines!

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

The same but a different Wye.

The river Wye is still new to me. I have only ever fished it on three occasions and this was the third, hence I am still getting to know it. I suppose with the changeable nature of running water it could take someone a life time to get even the smallest understanding of a river, and that knowledge could be washed away with one single flood; so me and the Wye still have a long way to go till I have even a modicum of understanding.

Before we even left the shire, the Wye on paper looked not that different from how it had been less than a month ago. This in turn created a hint of confidence that we may, in some way, have a repeat performance of our previous visit to this little-fished stretch.

At four in the morning the sky was about as clear as it could be, and even the glow of the city did not seem to diminish the view of the stars. But this clear night was to herald a clear day, and that we did not want one bit for our trip to this river. The problem with pre-arranging such jaunts is that should the conditions be adverse, you can't exactly just change tack having ultimately drawn your cards weeks prior; should it be a bad hand then it is simply a case of making the most of a bad lot. 

Our day was planned, and even though the pair of us knew the bright sun might well be against us, the cogs were already moving, and come what may we would soon be slipping through the night to try and beat the rising sun to the Wye, to best our chances of casting into the half light.
Winter views of rising and setting suns are, I have to say, some of the best, but when you want to be on the bank before light up, that pale blue semicircle that appears on the horizon as you speed through the night, is like an alarm bell ringing in your mind. The journey into Herefordshire therefore was not savoured one bit and was instead reduced to a countdown of miles on the the satnav. 

It was just getting light as I tip toed around ice clad muddy puddles to open the gate into the white frosted landscape of the Wye valley, and for the first time this journey, I felt relaxed. We were here, it looked great and the spot where we headed held fish for sure. Though how long those fish may be inclined to feed was anyone's guess.
Not long after this, Andy inched the car along the top of the flood defences as we neared the chosen spot. Being only a single car width, any vehicles travelling along this track must either travel the entire length or turn around on the single area wide enough and flat enough to do so, before powering back up onto the track. 
It was decided that given we were the only people going to be on the stretch it was a good idea to turn the car around before we started fishing and leave it on the track ready to go later.  Going down into the turning area was easy enough, but when Andy came to power back up, the car slid to an inglorious stop with the wheels spinning in the soft ground covered in frost. A few attempts all ended the same way. This was not a good way to start a session. We agreed that the frost may be hampering his efforts and decided to leave the car where it was and try again once the sun had melted the white grass green again. Though it was also agreed to try again around midday, so as to leave us enough time to go and try and find a kind farmer to drag us out should we be unable to get out any other way.
I know Andy had the worry of being stuck niggling in the back of his mind, and frankly I did too, but unable to do anything about it we went about trying to catch some fish, as prime time was ticking away with the quickly rising sun.

As I set up I watched the river flowing past, and as all the available information had confirmed it was no higher or lower than when we were last here. Even the colour of the water could of been a exact match to last time. But something about it was different. My rigs were identical in all ways but one: not wanting any disasters I had obtained some highly durable yet reasonably lower diameter mono line which I had previously used and was very confident in.
I even cast back into the same area where on my last trip I had done so well. Three quick casts and the feeling that the river was different grew.  If my rig landed only a few feet further out, the flow seemed ten times as powerful. Sticking with just inside the flow, taps started to appear on the rod and soon enough those taps grew more violent. All the taps stopped suddenly before I got a proper rattle, and instinctively struck just as the tip bent over.

Although secretly hoping the barbel would show up again, I had wondered if the major drop in temperature overnight may have put them off feeding, but here I was playing a barbel after my first real bite of the day and it was really hammering me. The freezing temperature had certainly not made this fish lethargic at all. Time and time again it powered in and out of the current, until I finally coaxed it into the slack water towards my waiting net.

Not a massive barbel, but on a freezing cold morning it was more than I expected quite honestly. A few repeat casts later it's smaller brother or sister did a very convincing impression of giant roach. The tip kept rattling  as is my baits were pecked at by a 10lb roach. This fish was half the size of the first and all the way in I suspected a the big white lips of a chub would appear from the fight, but then it suddenly turned into a small barbel.

Not long after the second fish, the bites dried up totally. Strangely, Andy, who was fishing a crease up stream, seemed to be getting regular bites. Thus I suspected the fish may of moved a bit further out. In order to try and squeeze out more interest  I increased my feeders weight and pushed more into the flow. Just casting that few feet more it seemed like the entire pressure of the Wye was on my rig, and time and time again no matter how much more weight I added, the rig was unceremoniously ejected back into the slack after tumbling across the rocky bottom. Even going onto my second rod, with its Avon tip and a huge cow lead piggy backed onto the feeder, only served to bend my rod right through the top section.

Feeling like I was not fishing effectively, I decided a new spot was in order, and dropped down to fish the crease where the flow came back off the bend, only to find this was a hundred times worse. This time  sunken maple leaves skipping the bottom immediately hooked up on my weighty rig and dislodged it in the edge.
It was whilst trying to fish this area that I realised that although the river was seemingly of exactly the same level as on our last visit, the flow had a lot more pace and power. It was almost malevolent as it pushed by, and was only content for me to cast beside it. Should I cast anything into its path, it was just shoved out of the way. Thinking about it, the only reason I can rationally think could explain this is that the water was encountering less resistance as it moved down stream. Whether it was reduced weed levels upstream or the wind coming from a different direction and not holding it up, or just pushing it on. The fact was that it was much more powerful  than before, and this was confining us to areas where the fish did not seem comfortable feeding.

As agreed, around midday after fighting it out for very little, we opted to make a move. The last time here we held it out in one area under the belief that the fish would again feed as dusk fell, only to find they had no intention of getting back on a bait. This time we wanted to explore a few other spots lower down stream, and as Andy had managed to get the car out of the mire it seemed a good time to move.

First we checked out an area we hoped might hold a large upstream slack, where rumours of big pike abound, but it turned out the increased pace of the water had pushed the main flow of the river directly onto the bank where we stood, which had in turn transformed what I suspect was a normally sedate spot into a maelstrom of mixed currents which neither of us fancied trifling with.

Next we headed to the very bottom of the stretch, entering via a second gate at the bottom of a very muddy lane. This part of the river looked every part a salmon and trout beat; long riffles interspersed with slightly deeper pools had spey casting written all over it, but as for coarse fishing it was not looking good at all. Worst of all the early winter sunset was not so long off that we could justify going back to our original spot. So begrudgingly we picked the likeliest looking area, which turned out to be a grassy plateau level with the river, and tried to make the most of things.

Upstream from Andy, I could not hold bottom again, and soon enough resorted to trotting the biggest chubber float I had along a run mid river to try and steal a bite here or there. The float moved so fast that a fifty yard trot lasted mere moments, but after persevering for a good hour or more the float buried out of sight at the end of the run and I contacted a reasonable chub. Vilified, my only problem now was how do you tow in a 2-3lb chub against the full force of the Wye using only a 3lb hook link.  It took a while and some gentle pumping, but a big white pair of lips appeared not far from my net just before one last turn against the flow pinged my size sixteen hook back in my face.

The move did turn out to be a bit of a bad one as the lower part of the stretch just did not seem the right sort of place to be fishing right now. Sure, in the summer standing knee deep in the river rolling a chunk of meat down the far bank under the trees may have been very productive, but at the time of year when that tactic would work, this place is the private premise of the salmon angler.

We had such high hopes for this session back on the Wye as it was going to be our last trip down this year, but the conditions had made the fishing difficult. However this river has me hooked, and I can't wait to return and discover a bit more about it, provided I can persuade its owner to let me come back again next year early after the salmon season is done.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Attack of the hungry jacks.

It was meant to be a date with old mother Avon for me this weekend just past, and zander I hoped might be my quarry. At the time this plan was conceived, the river was up, coloured and looked perfect. Only problem was that I could not get anywhere near it for at least five days. As I feared, through the week the conditions trickled away with the flow of the river, leaving my only hope a predicted downpour Friday night. That downpour never came and I knew that the opportunistic window therefore resided in the hours between  however early I could get up, and whatever time dawn held off till. The whole idea had waned in my mind as time passed and by the start of the weekend just did not seem worth it. So I began pondering a possible plan B.

It was my age old angling accomplice Rob who offered a suitably interesting venue change. He has permission to fish a largely forgotten estate lake deep in the Warwickshire countryside, that although silted badly, has what can only be described as an unmeasured fish population of god only knows what. Rob has spent a few sessions fishing this water and has had some interesting captures during what he described to me was reliable sport. The hint that hooked me though was the information that recently some big pike had been captured amongst a haul by one of the other anglers who also permission to fish the lake.
That was enough for me, and given the large current stock of dead baits lining the bottom drawer of our freezer, this seemed by far a better option than struggling on the Avon. So a date was made for a foray Sunday along with the promise of a roast dinner at mine when we got back to mine.

I do love an estate lake. They have to be my favourite sort of still water venue. Just the thought of one and the mysteries that lie beneath it's old and protected water is enough to get the hairs on the back of my neck bristling. So to say I was looking forward to this trip might have been a little bit of an understatement. Add to that the possibility of some big mean old crocs swimming around undisturbed, and it was quite a miracle that I even got to sleep on Saturday night.

It was only just light when we arrived early Sunday morning, and after travelling down miles of tree lined drive into the estate we found ourselves looking over the old lake as mist rose slowly off the water. Beyond the water across a huge expanse of impeccably manicured lawn towered an imposing Gothic house. The clicking sound of coots could be heard through the mist and a tawny owl still hooted in the woods alongside the lake; already this was more than I could ever of hoped this experience would be.

We headed round to a small point on the southern bank and set up close to where the feeder stream breathed life into the lake. It would of been far too vulgar to set up some kind of depth gauging rod and then trash the water up. So I instead just just hooked on a large dead bait, set my float around three feet above the weight and cast it far out into the direction I fancied. It only took three casts plus a slow retrieve to figure the depth was around three and a half feet on average and then that was it I was fishing.

I kind of always expect a long wait when I begin on a new water. So how shocked was I when one of my floats began that seductive 'there is a pike sniffing your bait dance' after only five minutes. It was only a jack pike of about four pounds but the speed in which it found my bait hinted this might be a good day for piking. And it turned out it was! Only minutes after returning the first fish and recasting the other float to toddled off attached to a second pike of identical proportions and I was in heaven.

The next one I had to wait a good three quarters of an hour for. But this one felt a bit bigger on the strike. Though saying that all pike feel big on that initial hit I think. Longer but leaner this one went berserk as it neared the bank dashing off to my left trying to get under the bank.

Not long after this we agreed that with the whole morning available we should maybe explore some other spots round on the eastern wood which faced the house. Rob explained earlier to me that  a lot of the fish shoal tight up in a deeper area when its cold., so this seemed the obvious spot to chuck my baits.

Although a little awkward for both sitting and casting, the area looked spot on for a run or two. One rod was cast into a shallow reed lined bay to my right, in which small fish were still topping around at mid morning. The other was punched full force half way across the lake as if I was trying to land it on the houses eastern patio.
After both rods were sorted - one perfectly still and the other bouncing up and down in the ripple - I plonked myself down for a nice warm in the winter sun. I think those few moments that I sat enjoying the warming rays were the last moments of respite I got before the action really kicked off.

One rod after another went off, with the rod cast out into the centre of the lake reaping the most attention.  Honestly I have never seen pike this hard on the feed in my life. You don't realise that every capture of a pike actually consumes quite a large amount of time. From the bite all the way through playing, landing, unhooking, releasing, re-baiting and casting the process probably takes a decent amount of time. Then normally you wait a while for a run. But today this was like match fishing for pike! 

With the constant action it was only a matter of time before I got a double hook up, and it happened as I watched a bite develop on the rod cast into the middle of the lake. The float had dithered a bit, moving off a little then stopping. I knew a pike was interested but decided to wait and hold on until it moved off. As I waited rod in hand, I heard the buzz of the free spool. But the float was not even moving. Turning my head, my other rod was bending round and the line was cutting off across the surface of the water. I dropped the rod I was holding back on the rests and grabbed the singer. I had only just struck when the float of the other rod buried. Luckily Rob was not far away, and after hollering for some help, he struck into the second fish.
Mine came in quickly enough and with that safe in the net we landed the second pike. This was first for me! I have had two tench, two bream and two carp in the net at the same time, but never two pike.

Double jack
Sublime is probably the best description for the way the fishing was on this session. It was just one of those occasions when I was lucky enough to be on the right place on the right day, doing the right thing. Sure, the biggest pike of the day would have been lucky to break seven pounds, but to be in such great surroundings getting so much action was a real kick.

Between seven and one I had around twenty different enquiries, five dropped runs, three strikes that met with nothing, I lost three fish during the fight and landed nine spanking pike between four and seven pounds. Luckily I had a large stock of dead baits with me, as when it was time to leave all I had left was two mangy skimmers and a mackerel head.

I will certainly be making arrangements to return to this gem of a lake before Christmas, because although all I have caught so far is what I would describe a jack pike, I have one hundred percent belief that they have to have a mother, who lets be honest, could grow quite large in a lake full of these size fish if she was a cannibal prone to infanticide.

Just before we left we did have a little look round to scope out a few areas and it was then that Rob told me about a little spot right down at the far end of the lake by the dam wall, where the water is surrounded by reeds and the depth plunges to well below the three foot average. Maybe that place could be the lair of a pike eater? As far as I am concerned it probably is and I will be dreaming of that until I return.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Two for one predators

The things we put ourselves through.

Sunday morning I woke way before my alarm and lay in the warmth of my bed pondering what the day ahead held in store.  Once up I slipped downstairs and skipped across the chilly wood floors to get the kettle on. Whilst the ear shattering noise of boiling water filled the silence, I peeped out of the door to see the world covered in white frost. It was certainly chilly, but that only fed my fervour for the days session. 

Earlier in the week I had arranged to take Jeff to my secret squirrel perch spot on the canal promising him a new canal PB and I myself was very excited at the prospect of what looked like a classical sort of session. Cold air, fallen leaves dotting the surface of the cut and fish with an air of urgency to their feeding. How could it go wrong!

After getting my diesel chugging beast running I climbed onto the front of the van and hacked away at the solid widow screen until visibility had been restored. Prior to this my hands had been lovely and warm but that was the end of that for the day. Soon enough I was quietly tapping on Jeff's door and got no answer! A second subtle rattle of his knocker seemed to get no response either, so a proper bang was needed and that brought a bleary eyed Jeff out like some small furry animal waking from hibernation.

Every time I pick Jeff up I always seem to go the same way but today I had wondered if a differing route may save a little time. So loaded up,  for the first time ever I went a right instead of left at the end of his road. Little did I know that this time saving call may of been one the worst decisions I ever made.

The roads were as expected empty, and zipping along in the dark I was pleased with my snap decision until we turned onto a quite bit of road that marks the very border of Coventry.  Just as we were about to pass into some lit road, a figure appeared waving their arms on the verge. Luckily I actually saw them, as any momentary lapse in concentration would of had them splatted on the front of a large van travelling at 60 mph. Initially I thought it was just a hitch hiker trying to bum a lift, but as I moved over to pass, the person came further out into my path, nearly forcing me to swerve off into the gravel lining the road. It was Jeff who uttered, its a girl, as I just went round her. Straight away I assumed we were being flagged down for help by someone involved in a crash and the instant thought of a over turned car lying in a ditch came to mind. But when Jeff opened his door and she spoke what she said was worse, much worse! and she uttered those awful words "I've been raped by two men and I need to get back to Coventry" through the sobs. Honestly I didn't know what to say and I don't think Jeff did either. Neither of us reacted that quickly but she on the other hand did, and was in the van before any kind of offer had been made. Instinctively I pulled off and plotted the course to the nearest police station. 

The crying soon subsided, and peering around an agog Jeff at our new passenger, I thought something did not look right. She was no girl dolled up for a night out that had ended badly, and now quiet she was slumping over half conscious. It then clicked what she was, and I realised we were now just a drug addict hooker taxi service. Whether she had actually been raped, or just not paid, or just wanted a free ride home was all irrelevant. The fact was that now my idle had been shattered and I now found myself in a situation akin to something from a Hunter s Thompson novel. All I needed was a head full of mushrooms and Jeff to be yelling inanely, whacked off his gourd on mescaline, and we would of been half way there.

When Jeff enquired of her wanted destination it roused her from her slumber and to give probably the last place in the world I wanted to go in this situation. Now seething, I drove as carefully as possible so as not to attract any unwanted attentions, as a trip down the local police station to explain ourselves did not appeal whatsoever. In the end we did get rid of the unwanted passenger and ended probably the worst start to a day I have had in a long time.

I think what up pissed me off me the most about the whole incident was that we were pulled in under the guise of someone needing help. Yes, should we have been needed to help someone in a crashed car we would not of hesitated, or should it of been a genuine assault we would of done our duty in driving right to the police station. But this girl did so easily what people in her unenviable position do, and dragged two innocent people into her world of crap. And in future I can't deny that if such a situation should occur I for one will think twice about stopping...

We did eventually get to the canal and when we did my heart sank a little. Here was me waxing lyrical to Jeff guaranteeing a good day and the cut looked not that dissimilar to the milky coffee Jacky is partial too. Still we got going and Jeff soon enough got an early indication. Then just as he waited for it to develop rain began to dimple the surface and the wind kicked up. Luckily I had a brolly and we were soon entrenched under it for what looked like a long morning. 

The sport was slow by this places standards, but early on my dead bait rod danced off attached to a small jack pike which I landed, then twice again slid away pulled off by what we both suspected were dithering Zander which I did not land. Jeff plugged away putting together a lovely bag of perch and I nabbed a couple here or there. But now the weather was taking its toll. The incessant rain was accompanied by sleet,snow flakes and a biting wind. Both of us were suffering badly but with little inclination to move we endured on.
It got to the stage where we were so cold that our hands were unable to evaporate the damp from them leaving permanently wet. If it weren't for the fact that Jeff looked colder than me I would of considered sharing body heat, it was that bad. Even madder than us was Andy who turned up for a possible chuck of lures only dressed in water proofs. He ended up crouching on the mud beside our camp for half an hour before seeing sense and going home.

The rain did eventually stop and this was our chance to get out and pack up. Just as we began we both turned to see the float of my dead bait line had vanished. Winding down I discover the rig at least ten feet out of position and struck hard into a decent fish and moments later landed this mint plump Zander.

Before doing anything with it I flicked out the rig onto the same spot then got a few pictures. By the time I had released that one and got on with packing up, it went off again attached to a smaller but still pristine second Zander.

In the end even though we had pushed ourselves to the very edge of endurance we had a good mornings fishing and Jeff looked pleased as punch with his net load of billies that included a new canal PB which I duly informed he would beat next time he came back with me.

The Lake #17 Ahab is back after the pike eater.

That flipping big pike has been haunting my dreams. I swear most nights as I try to fall asleep the vision of it's flaring gills flashing white as it engulfed that bream creeps into my minds eye. I knew I must go back. But I needed time and decent amount time at that, for my traps to have chance to work.

Time is the key with the lake I think. It takes time to locate them, or for them to locate you. Either way I did not care, I just needed a whole day at least on the lake. So I booked a day off work to have another crack. Last time I was here I felt I had flitted about spending too little time in any one spot, and that sounds mad as I only fished two swims. This time though it would be one and I would wait it out for ether failure or success and possibly even madness.

The lake looked in fine fettle with a green tinge to the water. The brook had obviously been pumping coloured water in over the weekend just passed, and I could not wait to get started. In no time at all my three floats were rotating around the large bowl of an area I had chosen to fish, and almost instantly my short range float did a quick bob which sent a ripple out over the calm water, indicating a imminent take. 

It was only small but what he lacked in size he made up for with spirit, and did a spectacular jump just off the end of my landing net. But that was to no avail as the next time round a plump and prime jack found the folds of my net. 

I would love to say the next eight hours were a blur of non stop action, but they weren't.  In reality all that ensued was a very long staring contest between me and the lake. Honestly it seemed like prime conditions with overcast skies, drizzly rain and reasonable temperatures. But it wasn't until the very last gasp that another float sparked up in exactly the same way and produced a equally spirited jack of a slightly larger size.

It is a little hard to see in this picture, but this fish had a little indicator that maybe I might not be that far off track, as it had signs of being grabbed by a much larger fish across its back. It was never a deep wound but more of scrape where large patches of scales had been removed by what looked like a considerably larger fish and indicated the definite presence of a pike eater in the lake.

This second foray after my white whale did produce some better results as the fish are getting slowly bigger. For my part though I do feel the whole Ahab-like obsession creeping over me. Maybe now I should start looking for a stove pipe hat, then get to work on Andy with a magic marker and fake tan so he can be my Queequeg.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

The Lake # 16 An eager air of trepidation

Things of late are going well... very well! I find myself centre of that wonderful place where I chose to fish the right place on the right day, and fish well. My results on this little streak are more than pleasing  In fact as Jeff put it the other day on this weekly blog for TCF I don't seem to be able to put a foot wrong right now.

Even an impromptu trip to the river a few afternoons ago, where all I had as bait was a few manky maggots and some remnant lob worms, filled my soul with joy as I caught nine stunning virgin river perch from a tiny pool, aside a fast run high up the Avon. Not one was so small as not to satisfy, and all nine were maybe a pound to a pound and a half . The sight of each gorgeous one lying amongst the fading autumn grass caused me to exclaim my joy aloud, even though no one could hear.

But I now find myself eager to return to the lake and that eagerness is filled with trepidation and maybe a fear of impending dread, that my return to this featureless monster may finish up with me again cursing as I shake my fist at it like an old croan, after it has slapped me down.

Pike, my target, grow large and can abound if found. How large they grow is anyone's guess, as fish hide in this lake uncaught for years. The problem is that the lake is huge and shallow and this makes the window for capture small. Once anything more than cat ice forms on its surface, the silver fish and pike undertake a tandem migration into the nature reserve. Yes, a few stranglers remain here and there, but most hide tantalisingly out reach of all anglers.

The lake had changed drastically since I was here last. Summer gone, the lake wears a different outfit which is stark yet still inviting. The trees that line its banks find themselves in various states, some already bare whilst others still cling to their red rust leaves, some remaining ever green. Work I see has been carried out since I left. Gone are some trees, their stumps visibly sawn through, whether pushed down by wind or just felled to make room. It matters not as new generations wait ready to fill the spaces. The edge of the water is no longer carpeted in pads but instead holds rafts of rotting foliage waiting to decay and drop their nutrients to the bottom ready for next year. Banks too have a covering of leaves which I kick up in the air like a child as I trudge along against the bitter wind.

I have followed that age old advice to fish on the end of the wind and as I head to my spot I am glad of my decision. The still clear water looks very life less indeed, though I am not so foolish to fish with it smashing into my my face. Instead I find a spot behind an odd bush that never seems to lose it leaves and secrete myself hidden away. Waves move right to left and I know this will help by imparting movement to my baits. But I also know that staring at the moving water too long will give me weird bending vision when I look away to still land.

Hunkered down hidden away I watch my floats bobbing around and hope that one will spring to life. Those first hints that a pike is on your bait translated by a buoyant float always gets me going; the float does a deeper bob than normal, and if in still water, you see the ripple suddenly emanate in rings outwards.
And soon enough it happens, as my left hand float dipped deeply once before heading off across the lake. What happened next must have looked so comical. I set my feet firm in the ground as the fish tightened up on the line. The rod in hand I clicked off the free spool and wound down before striking hard expecting some serious resistance. Then a sub pound jack pike nearly came flying out of the water as all my strength and my heavy rod removed it from its damp home like a match angler would whip in a small bleak from the river. Red faced I reeled the poor fellow in and separated him from the 2oz roach he had engorged.

Feeling a little foolish I began rebaiting. Whilst doing so I looked up to see my second still fishing float gone. Not wanting to be so over zealous I this time took up any slack in the line until I could feel the fish moving away. A much gentler strike met no resistance at all this time as the bait was removed from its bite.

A while later my two floats again bobbed around and confident of more action I sat ready. Another run soon materialised again on the left hand rod. The float ran off then popped back up ten feet from its original spot and stayed there until I wound it in to find a few tiny gashes in the side of the bait. Perplexed but still hopeful a bigger one might be around I recast.
That rod had not been on the rests more than a minute when the float began shooting off again. This one I hit early and hooked. Believe me when I say a one pound jack pike puts barely a bend in a three pound rod. Amusing as this was, the fish I was after was at an estimate at least twenty five pounds bigger than anything I had caught and I was getting the feeling that if she was around these little fish may not be.

A move later I was on the edge of where the wind hit the water. One bait cast into the ripple and the other in the still black water. For the rest of the morning my eyes flicked from one float to the other always expecting one to be gone when I looked back. But neither did!

It is hard to feel let down by my decision to return as I know what I am trying to catch will not be easy as I am trying to find a large needle in a hay stack full of much smaller needles. But the only thing I must be mindful of is not to become like old Ahab over this giant pike I have seen. It might take many years to chance upon such a fish in the lake again so it is just a case of keep trying until our paths cross again.