Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Otter a nutter and a liar

Sunday morning shortly after my 2nd alarm rang, I lay in bed in that place which is neither asleep or awake and half wondered whether I should get up and go fishing, or just roll over and go back to sleep. Problem is that I haven't as yet this year done any early mornings, and truthfully I am not naturally an early riser. This combined with me still feeling like my head is stuffed full of cotton wool after a gargantuan two and a half weeks of lingering cold, has me feeling a little reluctant to venture out in the cold damp morning air.

I knew I had limited time on my hands so I forced myself up and slipped out the front door. The night before it had seemed prudent that with my time constraints I should go down my local trickle to maximise time out and not waste my time driving somewhere. Not only that but returning home the day before I caught a glimpse of the brook as I drove over her and she looked good!

On my short walk from my house to the brook I noticed a rather interesting person walking up the opposite side of the road on an early morning jaunt. To all intents and purposes it looked like this young man was trying to fend of a rampant swarm of those giant invisible wasps we are seeing around here in this warm winter. It seemed best we both stay on a opposite sides of the road and when we were opposite each other and he very loudly began to inform me the were "no fish here" again and again and again and again at the top of his voice, which I am sure woke half the people in Coventry, if not Bedworth too. After exchanging pleasantries and a few peculiar hand gestures I bid the colourful gentleman farewell and carried on my way,  hoping to god he wouldn't follow me.

My first stop was at a swim I have now entitled the Gaza strip! It's a long straight run which even in low water drops down to three foot half way down the tall reeds and maintains that depth to the road bridge where it quickly shallows up and is situated right on the edge of no mans land.

I searched out this entire run fishing a super light quiver rig baited with small pinches of bread. Only to find it is so solid with minnows that a bait only lasts about two minutes wafting in this swim!

The next swim I moved to was on the opposite side of the bridge, where the water shoots out of a bottle neck with more force than anywhere else in this diminutive water. This too was chock full with minnows, although the increased flow turned their normal vibrations into full on bites.

Although both runs looked the part, nether produced anything other than whittled bread and foul hooked minnows. So I opted to move on again.
Before I left I had to answer the call of nature. Rather than have some passer-by call the law about and flasher down the brook, I ducked under the bridge. The river had obviously fallen recently and left soft mud beach on the edge next to the concrete where I saw something very interesting. A set of paw prints running into the water! A lot of them were fouled by each other and I could not get a good snap shot of them. But to me the seem about the right size for an otter.

If it is an otter I would be amazed, as that would mean they are at least 2-3 miles inside the city foraging amongst dense human housing. I am not totally convinced they are otter tracks though I have checked them out online and they look pretty similar.
That's all we need round here, urban otters loitering round under bridges smoking and threatening local water voles. Seriously though is this otter thing as bad as we think it is, or is it worse? I myself was never drawn into the whole Zander being murderous fish that kill for the sake of killing, and look how that panned out.  I have to wonder are we putting otters in the same boogey man category or are they actually destroying our fish stocks, because I keep seeing all these fantastic fish in the fishing rags and the Internet. So some of us are still managing to catch some fish before the otters get them. Truthfully I am not sure whether they are having the impact the media seem to claim they are.

This actually got me thinking. I have been fishing for 25 years in the UK and in all the time I have spent on the bank, I have only seen one maybe two otters and truthfully I have only seen five or so injured fish.
Now I know that I am only one angler so I suppose I must ask whomever reads this. 

- Have you ever seen an otter?
- Have you ever found signs of otters?
- Have you ever caught or found mutilated fish?

To be honest I currently find myself in neither camp for or against otters, as I have never seen first hand what they can do to a fishery. This could change in the future. But for now one niggling thought repeatedly pops back into my head. 'Who was fishing here first, us or them?'

After seeing the tracks I moved on down the tiny river and proceeded to bag four small chub from the next four swims which lead me to a conclusion about the chub in this zone of the river. They seem to all be the same size and I am a bit worried that is as big as they go here.

With only an hour left I went back upstream to an old haunt where an dog walker approached me. It turned out he was also an angler and he then passed on some information regarding whom and what resides around this brook.
I know anglers have a undeserved reputation regarding how big we say the one we caught was. Well this bloke was the king of angling flim flam. (if your reading this Jeff, sit down mate!) apparently he had deposited over 60 carp into the brook and only a few weeks ago the EA came down and removed fifteen fish from a deep hole up the way and the biggest was over 35lb.
If this guy had any idea how big a 35lb carp is he'd understand that a fish of such a size would only have half it's mouth in the water if it laid on it's side in this brook.

I think for my next trip out I may need to head back to the solitude of the country to get away from, well everything.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

weightless winter morn.

Recent suggestions for up coming fishing trips, and the general attitude of  a lot of people I meet, would have you believe that winter is just about over and spring will soon be upon us. Well my arse it is!!! I have this horrible feeling that sooner or later we are going to get some proper bad stuff. Admittedly I could be wrong, but either way I will be thinking very hard before involving myself in any night sessions for a while to come, unless the temperature rises by at least ten degrees and stays that way permanently. As for species I am playing it safe so off to the river after old Mr Chavin for me.

Walking across crispy frozen grass Sunday morning I could not help but remark to myself that of all the outfits which old England wears, by far my favourite is the frosty white number she sports repeatedly over winter. Be it meadow, wood, or ploughed field they all look great covered in crystals of ice. Especially on the way to a river.

A while ago I watched a short video on Martin bowlers website http://martinbowler.co.uk/online-videos where he used a floater cake to counterbalance a gob of cheese paste for chub fishing, and last time I was out it popped back into my head. At the time I didn't have the stuff to have a go so this time out I had the required bits and was ready to give it a bash. 
I am a huge fan of critically balanced baits and use them whenever I can whilst fishing. As fish do not have hands to test out things with, they must use their mouths and should a weightless bait fly in their mouth as the test it, a panicked fish and a sprung trap are inevitable.

Early last winter I knocked up a batch of random shaped pop up boilies to imitate bread to be used on a few different venues. They worked great for tipping off boilies with a fleck of white and worked even better for threading on a hair and squashing a hunk of bread round surface fishing for carp. And they seemed the perfect way to reduce the weight of some very fruity smelling cheese paste on this trip to the upper Avon.

Hook a buoyant bait onto a huge size 2 Drennan specialist

place on top of a flattened piece of cheese chod

 mould into required shape leaving hook point exposed

Another thing that Mr Bowler suggested, and I have also used before to search out Chub, are very light weights. By using not quite enough lead to hold bottom the flow of the river automatically pulls the bait into areas with less flow, where any energy saving fish can sometimes be found waiting for a tasty morsel to pass by in the heavier flow.
I used to solely use multiple swan shots until I discovered these giant shots made by Preston Innovations which seem to be the equivalent of 2-3 swan shot. It may seem trivial to most other anglers why I should use one large shot in place of two or three smaller shots. But as far as I can tell it makes a totally different sound hitting the water and you only have to pull one shot of the line should a fish find weed and need to be extracted.

Then cast the slowly sinking free moving bait into your favourite chub hole and wait. It took all of ten minutes for my rod tip to make a slight but significant tremble. I never even waited for the tip to go all the way round before I struck into a hard fighting fish.  I do have the utmost respect for chub as they are the dirtiest fighters that swim and that combined with their willing to feed worst conditions makes them a winter favourite. 
The hooked fish made an attempt to get under every possible bank, snag and weed bed within twenty feet. But finally it hit the net and carried on swimming like it was still in the water just like a tuna does when hauled from the sea.

Thank you very much Mr Bowler for the tip - it worked a treat! 4.5lb of long lean chub makes a chilly Sunday on the river perfect. I was shocked at how lean this fish was to be truthful. Had it been proper plump this would have been a five plus fish every day of the week.

I did have a few more fruitless casts in the first swim before I dropped down river a way and a rather rude half pound fish ruined my next swim, by making a god awful racket splashing around and shedding my hook.
The rest of the morning was spent residing at the head of a beautiful run with the Sun warming me. I knew full and well that the clear river and bright midday sun did not bode well for any more fish. So I enjoyed the last hour or so sipping warmish tea from my flask as I stared up at the amazing azure sky from my grassy corner overlooking the river.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

The river where

My year has not started well at all! I made that stupid mistake we all make from time to time and proclaimed that 'touch wood I had not been ill so far this winter'! As a result of this frivolous and poorly vetted comment I became ill on new years eve and have been ill ever since. Without being too graphic, I have suffered just about everything this virus has to offer all parts of the human body. Happily I am just about over it and the only the remaining symptom is that my voice resembles a rusty wrought iron gate swinging in a stiff breeze.

My problems of late have been compounded by my car getting written off just before the holidays and me now being reliant on the charity of others for transport. Though it all seemed to be coming good with a Sunday trip on the cards down the Avon. But! and that's a BIG but!!! only one thing stood in my way. The winter bloggers meet at a local watering hole. And that went a bit like this... a group of anglers turn up at real ale serving establishment, they chat  mercilessly on one topic whilst downing  pint jars full of ale like rampant Vikings and sometime after the others started to slip away so my did memory. After that point what I could remember was like a movie montage. Glasses, laughter and Keith applying make up to Jeff...
I awoke the next day with some kind of chili sauce caked into my beard and with my throat feeling like I'd eaten thumb tacks. A cup of tea later and the faint recollection that we had meant to have gone fishing crept into my head.

Whilst I attempted to salve my rising heart burn, Robert confirmed that we had in fact inducted Jeff into the mornings proposed session and that we were already an hour and a half late to collect him. Immediately we struck into action! Rob like a sedated slow loris and me like a stoned tortoise. We did eventually pick up Mr Hatt. Two and a half hours late, but that didn't matter as he was just about as confused on the previous nights arrangements as us.
It wasn't until we seemed to be travelling in the wrong direction that I asked Rob whom was piloting this precision mission where we were going, as he was driving a seeming long way of course. It turned out we had changed plans the night before and were going exploring today not back to an old haunt.
With a fuzzy head and my recent fishing drought, all I cared about was the presence of water and certainly not location. Soon enough we arrived at a river. Which was actually the fat arse end of mine and Jeff's beloved river Sowe. But for all us three knew about this bit it could have been anywhere.

The weir looked the part so I snatched the primo swim whilst Jeff was gawping at his plump mistress rolling by and whilst Rob scampered of through the thicket searching for pastures new. Only problem was how to get down a step bank without ether vomiting or falling in. I managed it and quickly applied my new simplified fishing mathematics to the venue.

January + River +  Angler + Hook + pungent cheese paste = Chub

First cast of the new year and one fish! this can't be bad. So I tried again and cast my over sized cheese ball into the flow. This time it rolled back to my own bank unhindered. But half way through my third roll, tap tap strike ended with something big ripping me off. It had to be a barbel which I know for a fact exist just downstream in the Avon, as no chub in Europe was snapping the agricultural gear I had on.

I thought the capture of one fish and the loss of another may have ruined the swim so I cast around the tail of the pool thinking the fish may have backed off a bit and explored all eddies and riffles.

The classic one last cast under the most precarious bush on the whole swim brought me a second nice chub just before I upped sticks to wander off downstream in search of a new swim.

The rest of this section of the Sowe was virtually impossible to access, though we did discover a little gem of a run, where no less than five different fish rose to passing bread crusts. I got three takes at range by floating a hunk of crust downstream and missed every one like a numpty. My attempt at creeping closer only served to send them flying into cover. Now I have seen chub take crust of the top and know that If they come up to grab it they have it! But these fish were a lot more coy than any stupid chub I have ever seen and when I went right up close and took a peep, the culprits were gone and the swim was literally only inches deep. Leading me to conclude that they may have been not old rubber lips, but maybe just maybe that rarest of Warwickshire fish population. Wild trout!