Friday, 31 August 2012

The Lake #14 and a little bit more to finish.

Ever had something stuck in your mind, like the annoying first song your hear on the radio in the morning that you whistle all day? I for one am quite prone to getting images stuck in my head. Like the time a few years ago when I saw a pure white Koi swimming along the upper Avon. That fish was my white whale. Like Ahab I became a little preoccupied with the thought of catching it. Which I never did! But at least it never dragged me to my death as the whale did old Ahab.
The little weir pool hooked me when I cast into it. In all the years I have peered into it, I never thought it could hold so many wondrous fish. In only two or more hours it's secrets bewitched me. If catching those little tench was not enough to do so, what I saw definitely was, and may well become, my new white whale.

Along with a pair of small carp and an odd bream, I spied a big tench. Now the carp were by my estimation maybe 5-8lb, although carp weights can be hard to truly assess. Rock hard running water carp will weigh more than a flabby commercial cyprinus any day, but these looked around that weight. The tench I saw with them had a quarter more length, but was no where near as rotund. At a guess I suspected it may of been a five pounder, but the constant mulling of my mind had me pondering the possibility of a larger weight.

I had no choice, I had to go back. So even with a myriad of other possible angling scenarios that I could have embarked on this bank holiday weekend. My heart wanted the little weir pool. 

This time I had kit more akin to winkling winter chub, and also I had enough worms to last the entire day when I stepped into the wood and followed the trail round to the head of the weir pool.
Looking into the water through polarised eyes, I could not see so much as a tiny roach in the early light. But sometimes it's better not to see your quarry, as there's less distraction that way. 
I wanted to get some bait down and try and focus the fish into the one deep area at the centre of the run, but this had to be very subtle. So I began to sprinkle red maggots into the run ten at a time and held off casting for the first half an hour so as not to disturb the occupants. After only half that time I was desperate to make a cast and had to remind myself to hold fast.

Eventually the time came, and rather than trot a float down I flicked out a tiny link ledger with only two swan shot as weight. It barely made a sound as it broke the surface and only enabled me to just hold tension on the line in the flow. The first taker of my lobworm obliged immediately. My seventh mini tench from the weir pool was the first and two more followed before the forth strike hit something very solid. In moment of sheer madness a much bigger tench rolled in the centre of the pool and freed itself from my hook instantly. 
I had to calm myself as I sat firing more maggots into the run waiting for the tiny swim to settle down. That fish looked about big enough to be the one I had seen, and I had just lost it! Again I swung the rig out and settled back to see what effects this short lived fight had had on the swim.

A tremble of the rod tip followed by a hoop and again I hit something solid. This fish bored deep towards the reeds at the end of the run. But low hard pressure turned it around and it then charged across the swim towards me. I saw it shaking its head under my feet angry as hell at being hooked. Time and time again it ploughed around the pool but my resolve held and a decent tench was in the net.

I was sure this was not this fish I had seen originally. Not massive, but fighting even this three pound fish in the a tiny pool no bigger than your average car is a nerve racking pass time.
After this a string of small perch preempted a second coming by the micro tench brigade, and my tally of tinica reached twelve. The sheer amount of tench trapped in this pool was unreal and more was still to come, and not by way of a leviathan either. To the left of the pool is a shallow sandy bar where the the flow bends slightly with the natural curvature of the river and the pressure dissipates. Quite often shoals of roach or rudd are seen passing over it. Today the shoal looked different for some reason. Both roach and rudd in this clear pool have bright red fins and this can be clearly seen in the gin water; these fish however were very dull and moved in absolute pure unison. After reeling in my rod, I crept right into the thicket to try and get a closer look. Peeping from between the grass I could see exactly what the were; twenty to thirty tiny, finger long tench. Although it is perfectly feasible that as surface dwelling fry they may have washed over the weir I was beginning to suspect that maybe they were pool bred. This place was beginning to blow my mind.

What happened next was a proper shock. After sitting on a cast for an age, I received a couple of slow taps on the rod tip then nothing. Thinking I had been cleared out I lifted the rod to re bait and found myself snagged solid.  I had ether cast over an unseen branch or a small perch had probably dragged my bait into one. All I could do at this point was pull for the break. After locking down the clutch I walked slowly backwards shielding my face with my had in case a couple of flying swan shot should crack me upside the head. I was expecting a snap when I suddenly felt the dull slow movement of whatever I was attached to moving. Then something kicked and I was fighting a fish. Straight away the fight gave its identity away. It was an eel, and a strong one at that. As eels go this one was almost well behaved and just tried to swim backwards for a few minutes before I slipped it into the net, where it promptly went absolutely insane. Luckily the hook was right in the corner of its mouth and a quick twist from a pair of forceps had it unhooked. It wasn't a huge but still weighed in at 2.5lb. But importantly it was the right sort of eel... Anyone who has ever read anything about eels know there are two different head types found on our native eels. The first is the narrow snout and small mouthed type which feed predominately on invertebrates. But this was the other wide mouthed variety. Which are mainly predatory fish eaters, and are most associated with becoming big snigs. 

This was definately going back in the lake, hopefully trapped there for forty years or so, growing massive, hidden in the weeds eating passing roach.

My patience was about to truly be tested when a small jack pike moved into the swim scaring off every other resident and proceeding to grab every worm I cast in. Twice I hooked it and twice its surging fight and sharp teeth bit me off. The third time it was not so lucky and I hooked it right in the scissors. This jacks days lording it over the little weir pool were over. Up it went to the lake were it would suddenly be a small fish in a big pond.

A few more small perch and the forty lob worms I had taken were gone. My feeble attempts at fishing a Medusa's head of maggots on the hook just attracted all the little silvers, who where having a party since the pike had been relocated. Roach, rudd, skimmers and some hybrids that were an combination of the three, battered my bait senseless.

Had I more worms I would have stopped on indefinitely. But trying to hook small stuff on a tip would drive anyone mad. But as I packed away I did realise that I had landed seven species from a swim no bigger than a snooker table and carried on with my re population of the lake with small tench to boot.
Then just before I left I spotted the two resident carp doing there rounds around the pool followed by not only the one big tench but two. The carp carried on off along their route but the two tench stopped side by side on the bottom facing me. I could see there yellow down turned mouths clear as day as they just sat there mocking me as I had literally no bait to cast at them.

Sadly at this point my relationship with the lake must go on hold. I have had an amazing time being monogamous with this fickle water, and the things I seen have been nothing less than revelations. No matter what anyone says about the state of the fish populations, I have seen with my own eyes what lies beneath the surface and held some of them in my hands. But for now my neglect of the Avon weighs heavy and the babbling water calls to me. So the next month or so will be spent sitting on its banks with hope that a barbel and a few zander will come my way.
I cannot rule out the odd session back on the lake here or there, although for now I keep telling myself I won't be back until the green leaves of the trees turn a hundred shades of Autumn

Monday, 27 August 2012

The Lake #13 Giving a little back

The Lake like many English waters of its type, is formed by use of  stream and valley. And this means that at one place a small amount of water will flow in, and at another will flow out via some form of dam. On the lake these areas are out of bounds to anglers. One because it is deep inside a nature reserve, and the other because they simply don't want it to become a regular peg. But over the time that has elapsed since I dedicated myself to this water I have become very well acquainted with the bailiff, and have discussed these two areas with him in depth. Thus after a little coercing he agreed to grant me permission to fish the small stream beyond the little that weir spills water out of the lake, on the strict instruction that anything I caught was redeposited back into the lake. If anyone was to ask me about my fishing this supposed out of bounds water, I was to tell them it was solely for restocking purposes under his permission.

What has caught my interest the most during our discussions are the tales of  big perch that supposedly drift in and out of the deep hole in the centre of the pool. As I have yet to land a single perch this year from the lake. A big clear water perch seems quite a attractive proposition to me.

I went to the lake early Sunday morning with the initial intent to angle for tench along the lillies which line much of its banks, and upon arriving in the half light I had a peg in mind where I had seen one huge fish in shoal of many half its size. This though is a popular spot, not only with the tench enthusiasts but with the carping fraternity who annoyingly seem to use it not to fish the near bank where I have seen a fair few carp, but blank fishing the far one. Every time I try to drop in on this tasty area it always seems to have inhabited for five days by another angler. Sadly today was no different. But happily it was an old chap with parallel thoughts to my own. I stopped for a chat where he confirmed he was to angling for something of the green variety, but as yet had seen no action of signs of life.
Moving on further round the lake I came to my second choice spot and settled in. The morning passed with very little activity all over. Only a single but sizeable tench rolled six feet off my bait and the float sat perfectly motionless for more than four hours against the pads. I knew the lake was off sorts today and the rising sun I knew would only compound things. So although I was not my main aim of the day I saddled my gear and headed off further round into the woods to give the little stream a cast or two.

Being such a tiny little swim I wanted to cause as little commotion a possible. So set up a tiny clear chubber float with little more than two feet between hook and float. One test run through to confirm no unseen snags revealed a clear run of about eight feet before the stream shallowed with silt. It was a perfect miniature weir pool

What else could I ply my hook with other than a tasty lobworm to tempt a big Sargent. I always split my worms in two hooking one half in the split end and the other vice versa. The way they move through the water when hooked like this is totally different to a whole worm, and has the added attraction of the juices flowing out down stream with it.

Swinging the float out into the centre of the weir, I watched the worm drift down through the clear water until it disappeared out of sight. The little power of the tiny stream caught hold and pulled the rig slowly and steadily along until half way down the pool when the float reached a snaggy looking tree, then dipped once before pulling away on a forty five degree angle and I struck into a solid resistance. At first I felt the right sort of jagging up and down in the water and automatically suspected a perch. But as I coaxed it upstream I got a shock when it reached the clear water near my feet.
It was no perch but instead a tiny tench, which I could see turning from side to side diving towards the bottom.

Of all the fish I would have expected to catch trotting a worm in this tiny pool, this was not one of them. I quickly dashed through the trees back above the weir and released this perfect little croaker back into the lake from where he came.

The next run through was an mirror image of the last. The bait sank, the flow caught the rig and in the exact same spot the float dipped away and I struck a solid fish. Holding it in the flow I thought to myself 'it can't be' But it was! A second little tench, that if I hadn't just put the last one back in the lake would have had me thinking it was the same one. This one too was transported back over the weir and as I walked back I pondered the rarity of these captures. On some heavily coloured commercial just stocked with tench its not unusual to capture small ones. But on old lakes like this one they are like ghosts until they are two pounds plus and here was me with two in two casts.

It didn't stop there ether over the next hour I picked three more identical ones out, trotting my worms past that snag before I spotted two fairly decent carp drift along the edge to my left which dragged my attention away. Add to them the masses of rudd and roach I had seen once the sun squeezed through the trees and I realised how many fish had been washed over that weir when the water was up over the winter.

The tiny tench eventually dried up and around then I fancied a more static bait might give the perch time to find it. So I flipped over to a single swan shot paternoster as a change. Low and behold a string of small perch responded to this move, as well as a couple of over eager Rudd to about 8-9oz who gobbled up my huge baits.

By now I was causing quite a commotion in this tiny patch of water, and the inevitable had to happen. As I reeled in another small perch I watched as a small jack pike confidently follow it up the flow before snatching it right at the last moment and turning back down the pool. The fuss this thing caused as I tried to get it in had to have freaked out every fish in the vicinity before it finally severed my light line.

It did go off for a while. But my final bite using my last worm connected with a certainly larger fish which charged all around the little pool like a maniac. The biggest tench of the day on my last cast using my last worm. At two pound tops it would seem a poor fish for a lot of venues but by this little streams standards it was monster, and mint to boot.

Walking away from this interlude bait-less and half covered in slime from wrangling with those bars of soap, I had a certain smug feeling knowing that I had given something back to the lake. The likelihood is that if those fish would have remained in the stream they could have been easy prey for any of a plethora of predators and come the winter, high water could have flushed them off to god knows where. Back in the lake I fear I am by chance unlikely to run into them again. But if I do see them in some years time there could be a very good chance of them being five pounds or more with all the natural food available.

Friday, 24 August 2012

The Lake #12 In honour of pretty things

For weeks I have watched the lake. My eyes freed from concentration of the float have roamed over this epic sheet of water for signs of life. In my past experiences here I have always feared maybe this lake lacked population. But now I know better. For the fish are there, and to see them you just need to know when and where to look.

Groups of tench can be seen around noon as they slowly pass between lily beds in the clear water. At dusk massive shoals of roach dance along the reed beds rippling the surface on it's eastern shore. Regularly a pair of monstrous carp who have no mind to feed, drift mid water in front of one particular spot. These are just some of the sights I have seen in this constant relationship between myself and the Lake. Though it is another which brings me here.

Pike! The lake is full of pike! I have had a few run ins with them so far. Most have been accidental, others  accidentally on purpose. One has a story which I must save till later in the year, when the cold is here and we sit in front of warm fires recounting such tales. But for now the things I have seen inspire me to spend a little time in search of that most viscous version of essox... the summer pike.

Considering current rules and regulations of the lake has forced me to reveal an as yet unknown secret. Hidden away in a draw behind bags of bait and piles of tackle are several boxes stuffed full of......

Yes, you've got it, lures! I love 'em in a very odd way. I suppose the only comparison I can make is my fetish for lures is like a woman's for shoes. I know I don't need them, but they're so pretty I have to have them. And the insane thing is that I hardly ever use them and I know it.
But for the first time since I began writing this blog "the lure of angling is going lure fishing"!!!!! 

Part of the inspiration for this was what I witnessed whilst taking the psychological slap a little while ago. Not only did the lily beds harbour multiple micro jacks, but at one point I watched a scene that only Sir David Attenborough could have narrated; small pike flying feet out of the water, shoals of flashing silver roach fleeing into the air for safety, and  the swirls of bigger fish grabbing jacks.

The itch to plug the depths has become too much to resist, and so the other night I headed down to the wooded banks of the lake to fire lures out into the void and try and tempt a jack or two from the weeds.

Spending most of my time sitting low and still surrounded by a plethora of kit being the norm, results in me feeling somewhat naked with the frugal amount of tackle needed for a session of fake wanging. But even as I looked at the single medium weight American style outfit my good friend Rob had brought me as a gift from Canada a few years ago, and the small bag of lures, I knew keeping it light was the key to covering maximum ground in this game.

As for lures, I learnt long ago when I did this a fair bit that it is best to only take a few select lures and work them well, rather than take a whole box and be repeatedly changing. Having studied the topography of the lake in detail over the past few months decisions came very simply by way of anything that floats or does not dive deep.

The weed free frog - With it's key weed guard and semi buoyant nature this little lure works slowly under the surface, and is great for pulling through and along the edge of lily beds

The top water mouse - A true surface lure, this little fellow just buzzes along the surface making any sneaky old jack pikes think they are about to get a free meal. But this one has a surprise for them by way of a  double hook which becomes very prominent when the soft lure is bitten.

The Svenson shallow runner - This is one of those lures that actually dives surprisingly deep when cranked hard, but pulled slowly it holds around 3ft and the rattling wiggle combined with the semi reflective paint job has proven deadly in the past for me.

The Shakespeare shallow pike - I will not deny how crude this looks, but looks can be deceiving. The cannibalistic character of the pike has made this slow and distressed moving lure top scorer in my team

The twin tail jig - I love plastics, mainly because they work in so many different ways and situations. Whether its reeling them back slow and deep, fast and shallow or jigging them up off the bottom and letting them fall, they make a million different movements and can normally be relied upon to scratch a hit.

As excited and prepared as I was, it seemed on the day the lake was far from in the mood. The banks empty, I worked my way through a third of the lake swim by swim and cast by cast, searching every weed bed, nook and cranny, and all I had to show for my efforts were two follows and zero hits.

A chance encounter with the bailiff informed me that the majority of predators seemed to be following in hot pursuit of the bait fish that were last seen in the shallow bay back where I had begun earlier. 
With little light left in the day I immediately headed back rushing along the bank, missing swims I had already earmarked for return visits. Upon arriving I knew it would not be long until light faded and I could see the rings of topping small fish all over the bay in front of me, but no signs of attacking predators.
My third cast was slashed at by a small pike whose flared gills could be seen quite far out in the clear water. Two repeat casts, and he hit the lure hard before spiralling from the shallow water like an angry tarpon shaking his head. I actually saw the lure fly out of it's mouth as it arced through the air. This was the sort of action I was after.
A while later a cast on a skeletal old branch in the water, grabbed me a second hit. But after zig zaggin around, the second small jack found his way back into his woody home and me snagged tight. I have always hated the thought of leaving a fish snagged up, no matter how small they are. So given the shallow depth of the water I decided a bit of a paddle might not be so bad. The first step into the edge and my left foot went sank right below the ankle. Wading was not an option! I did not like the idea of pulling for the break, but it seemed my only option. Clutch locked up, I tightened down and began walking slowly backwards. Lo and behold the snag moved. The branch was no where near as big, or deeply dug in as I thought. My hopes of landing snag and fish seemed very real now. Closer and closer the snag came in at a snails pace, until finally it was within reach of my hand. How gutted was I when I pulled the slimy silt stinking branch out, only to find that the little bugger had pulled the 'old leave the hook in the snag and get off trick.'

The next fifty casts reaped not so much as a single tinkle, and after trying all my shallow lures I ended up throwing out the twin tail and retrieving it at a monstrous speed. I never thought anything would have a go at such a fast travelling lure, but about ten feet from the edge a fish darted out and grabbed it just as I was about to lift it from the water. As always with summer pike I got real value for money. Jumping out the water and long darting runs, the works. The fight you would have thought came from a much larger fish, but when I eventually calmed it down and slipped the net under, it revealed the hardest earned, yet perfect little tiger of a jack pike I have landed in years.

Although I have caught pike from the lake literally twenty times this ones size. The capture of this miniature preadtor really made all the effort worth while, and it certainly won't be so long before I dust of those boxes of pretty things again.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

The lake #11 A reel test ends in a double.

Over a year ago found myself in the market for a new pair of bait runner type reels. After weighing up the options of the available on the market in my price range I opted to purchase a pair of Korum Kxi 60 freespin reels which really looked the part.

In the time that has passed since accruing these I have used them in just about every situation and weather imaginable, from Spring tench fishing on large gravel pits, right through quiver tipping for Zander on the Warwickshire Avon in Autumn, and in all situations they have performed admirably. 

It was not until my early Spring campaign of this year that small foible developed in one of the reels. Very occasionally the free spool became a little temperamental at the very lightest setting. Although intermittent it became a little worrying that sooner or later it might let me down just at the wrong moment. Then more recently the second one also started to show signs of going down the same route. At first I pondered contacting the retailer. But when I ran the scenario through in my head 'I bought a pair of these reels well over a year ago. I've hammered them in every weather come rain or shine and now I think there is something wrong with them' I got the distinct impression that how they would reply would start in a laugh and end in an expletive. So rather than be made a fool off I instead contacted the manufacturer via their website and explained my situation.

Their response was nothing less than amazing considering I was just some bloke who had emailed them via their website. Straight away they asked me to send them back to their service department where they would check them over and repair them, no questions asked. Well a week after returning them I received a parcel I assumed would contain my freshly serviced Kxi's. 

But what was in the box was not my serviced reels but.... A brand new pair!!!!

Not only did they supply me with the new reels but they considerately returned my spools from the old set. Meaning I now have four aluminium spools per reel. To add to that they even chucked in a few goodies including a fetching green baseball cap that I will certainly be sporting for the rest of the Summer.

I have to say that considering the reasonable price I initially paid for these reels, Korum's response has been truly amazing and has left me in no doubt that they actually care about how their products are perceived and whether the anglers that use them are satisfied with there products. So all I can say is thank you very much everyone at Korum. Job well done. 


Having a newly spooled pair of brand new reels seemed the perfect excuse to hit the lake for a night session  and test them out. So after attaching them lovingly to my Avon rods and setting up the rigs with probably more than due diligence, I headed off to make camp on the shores of the lake.

With the entire night at my disposal there was no way I was going to hold back, it being Summer and all. With no doubt in my mind that the lakes residents would get onto the feed I mixed up a smorgasbord in two large buckets. 4k of green crumb, 2k pellets, 3 tins of sweet corn, 2 pints of hemp, 2k stewed pigeon mix and a few choice flavours gave me around 12 kilos of bait once it was all damped down and ready to be balled in.
A quick lead around found a large clear patch in the weed an easy cast out in an area the seem to be residing in at the moment. Then with a marker float bobbing around central to the patch I fired out ball after ball all over the area. Even dropping them in on a high arc to try and get maximum impact on entry so as they never made it to the bottom whole. As one last cherry on top of the cake I finished off by scattering half a kilo of 10mm Boilies loosely over the baited area to try and get the fish looking for those bigger tasty morsels.

With lines marked and rigs cast out I settled down in my shelter thinking that after all that racket the swim would take a long time to repopulate and this would give me a good four or five hours of dozing before any action occurred. It did take sometime for the fish to venture back in. But no where near as long as I have seen before on the lake and I had not go so much as one wink of kip before it happened. Once the light faded my it was like a switch flicked and the frenzy began.

I was straight into a good size fish on my first bite and that one hadn't even crossed the rim of my landing net before another bobbin began to rise and fall slowly indicating a second fish. The first fish looked huge in the bottom of the net but I never had chance to do anything with it. So I left it in the edge whilst I attended to the second rod. Now with two bream in the bottom of my net I did for a moment consider going for a brace shot. But the second fish literally half the size of the first so I opted to just release it straight away so I did not have to worry about it whilst I weighed the bigger one.

After weighing the fish at a little over 9lb I attempted to get a photo. This turned out to be a little hard as you can see from the state of the photo as my third rod, which I should just say was on a smaller separate spot just down the edge, started to bleep as I was trying to take it. This again turned out to be a smaller 4-5lb fish and after releasing both fish I turned round to see the carnage that was my spot. Three rods all out the water, nets mats and me all caked in bream slime and this was only the beginning.

For the next five hours I worked feverishly to try and keep rods in the water. I do not think at any one point I actually managed to have all three rods in the water at one time. As they just rattled off one after another time and time again. Every time I looked into the bait bucket my bait seemed to dwindling more and more the feeders were going out so fast.

I do not know how many fish I had landed but by two in the morning I was in a real state. My casts were getting less accurate and I repeatedly forgot to clip up. Fatigue was getting the better of me and quite frankly the fish seemed to be getting smaller as the night wore on. It was hard, but I had to make the decision to pull my rods out the water just so as I could get some sleep. It is not an easy thing to do, to stop fishing even though this was one of those time when they can't get enough of it. But I had to do it before I did something really stupid, like standing on a rod or something in my totally dazed state.

I can't even remember throwing off my top or crawling in my sleeping bag. But somehow I did manage to remember to set my alarm to go off at five so I could recast and hopefully fish whilst dozing in the morning.
It is surprising how refreshing only a few hours of sleep can be. My eyes pinged open instantly the moment the sound of my alarm began to build and got straight on with business of getting the rods back out. All three hit there spots first time and I got the feeling the fish were still around as I felt two liners as I set the bobbins.

The fishing was a little less frantic in the light. Which enabled me to sleep for probably thirty minutes between bites. The first takers were pretty average for the lake, falling into the 4-7lb bracket but a couple of naps in a very slight bite yielded a very solid resistance. We all know bream fight like wet sacks but this sack felt like it still had spuds inside. Compared to a lot of the previous fish I took it very easy on this one as it wallowed in. Just of the net I saw a pretty big tail, then as it rolled over the cord it looked big.

I have now caught so many bream from the lake that I have seen probably every possible different shape on one fish or another. Long ones, short ones, thick ones ,and thin ones. But this one had all the positive attributes it needed. Massive humped back, deep pigeon chest and although not a super long fish it was defiantly  wide.
The scales confirmed my hopes. At last a double from the lake. Though only just at 10.2lb!

Weirdly that was pretty much it as the bites went and the first and last fish I caught were the biggest of the whole session and interestingly younger looking fish than a lot of the average ones.

I have racked my brain to try and figure out how many fish I landed through the night. But the best I have come up with was that I lost count somewhere between fifteen and twenty. But I now I landed lots more of all shapes and sizes. A conservative guess may be around twenty five fish through the night. Add to that the confirmed six in the morning. Using some very rough sums and average weights plus the two definite weights has me thinking the total weight could well have been anywhere between a hundred and fifty to two hundred pounds. Though I could never confirm the exact weight I certainly had a few hundreds pounds worth of bream slime caked on my kit which I had to try and clean off.

Oh, and as for the new reels, they were faultless!

Friday, 10 August 2012

The Lake #10 A serious & stinky psychological slap

Having what you believed to be true for as long as you can remember suddenly proven totally wrong by someone else is a hard thing to stomach. But when you see it yourself with your own eyes it is a real psychological slap. Especially when the repercussions that emanate from it reverb backwards through your life, making you see how many hours you have fruitlessly waiting for something that will never or probably ever happen. Well this happened to me on my last visit to the lake.

At 5.30 am the lake in no uncertain terms looked the part. Mist rising, the bright sun shrouded in low lying cloud and rippling fish as far as the eye could see. After finding the target area I fancied occupied by a bivvie filled with a snoring man we pushed on round the lake under the arch in the trees until the sun shone directly in our faces. With handles still cutting into my neck and hands I watched several good fish rolling at range. This was definitely the place for me.

My swim could not have looked more perfect but as I set up I kept getting the odd whiff of something highly unpleasant. Even after checking the soles of my shoes for something bad and seeing nothing, I was absolutely convinced I had somehow brought this stench up the bank with me. But the smell seemed intermittent at best and it would not be until later that I discovered the source.

I got cast out just in time to see several nice tench roll out in front. This only served to boost my confidence that before the sun got too high in the sky, a few fish may grace my net. Sitting behind two rods I waited with baited breath, although it's a good job I wasn't holding my breath, as nothing happened! I have seen this before and heard it from others when fish repeatedly roll and porpoise at dawn and dusk and never really get on the feed. The setting plus fish and not catching it was absolute torture.

The dawn was gone before I got my first sign of interest by way of a quick aborted take. Not long after this patches of bubbles rose all over a massive area in front of me. Bubbles we are taught are a sign of fish but! I myself have fallen for this one many times before. Rotting plant matter and just general gas escaping from the bottom of the lakes can do a brilliant impression of fish, especially when the temperature changes early in the day and your mind makes you believe. Only when you see them rising and fizzing up through clear water with no fish causing them, do you realise that you have been chasing bubbles. Though there is those times when it is undoubtedly fish, and when the area down to my right burst into an audible fizz I had to get my lift float rod out and cast a bait over it.

The rest of this fruitless session was spent hovering over that rod with nothing to show for my effort but two slight dips on the float. I did eventually figure what the awful smell was as I watched the float. Hidden in the edge under a tree was the half chewed bloated corpse of a pike. Every so often the breeze would send a whiff of this stinking corpse up my nose, forcing me to spend much of the morning with my face stuffed in my top.
As the sun got higher in the sky the clarity of the water became apparent. With my Polaroids on I could see the bait on the bottom under my float and the area seemed barren of fish although surprisingly clear of weed.
With the decision made to leave I decided to make my way slowly back whilst using the waters clarity to my advantage and checking out some areas I fancied fishing.

What I saw as I mooched back shocked me to the core. Standing in the correct angle to the sun I could see practically half way across the lake, the water was so clear. Weed patches, clear patches and bars all plainly obvious. One area I have spent many many hours fishing had a bottom that looked like the surface of a car park not the bottom of a lake. Amongst lillies which I had always assumed created a thick canopy to shelter fish, I could see the silted up bare bottom. How many hours had I wasted targeting these places over the years all for nothing! For at least a quarter of the lake the only life forms seen in the water were snails and pencil sized micro pike.
In water this clear I could have spotted a two ounce roach at fifty yards, but there was nothing at all as far as the eye could see. I know that under the cover of darkness that fish would stray back into this part of the lake, and that if I was prepared to do any nights here I could probably catch, but the realisation that this was more than likely the answer to why in the past myself, and many companions, had suffered so many demoralising blanks in this picturesque bit of water.

But this has got me thinking that most of the fish population, of which I know there is a large amount, must get pushed into quite confined area up near to where I had fished on this very session which could well work to my advantage this coming weekend.
Spending so much time on this one venue really is letting me see it in every possible light. Only a few weeks ago the entire area that on this occasion was clear was heavily coloured and quite probably full of fish, whereas now the suspended particles have settled leaving the the water clear and barren.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

The lake #9 Short sessions. Am I getting it

The matter of short sessions on the lake has for me been a pragmatic one, with my initial angles being not particularly productive, and I can now in hindsight see how poorly aimed they may of been. Big quantities of noisily deposited bait needed long periods of time for the fish that know it's there to come back in on it. Paradoxically smaller more precise deposits seemed too little to attract any interest. Or so I thought! Whilst on my last visit lift float fishing amongst the weeds in the edge of the lake, I watched a shoal of five tench both small and large, move around my swim through the clear water. The first thing that struck me was how five fish could actively move around my line which cut diagonally through the water and not register there presence on my float at all; and secondly - and far more interesting - was their behaviour. Not at one point did they actually get their heads down hard on the bait, even though they were obviously aware of it being there as it seemed to hold some attraction for them.

I watched in sheer wonder as they picked up odd offering here and there.  I racked my brain to fathom this feeding out. Now before I throw out any bait I always first plop either a ball or a handful into the edge of any water I am fishing just to see what how it goes down, how it looks on the bottom and what happens to it over time. Referring back to my earlier deposit only a foot from the edge I noticed something I had not clocked before. The tomato sized ball I had dropped in had, after a few hours, broken down fully into a small carpet as I expected, but in doing so had left a three inch deep crater lined with bait in the silk weed that covers the bed of the lake.
This was a epiphany, and after trying my rig in the same area I realised that the six inches from my hook to the heavy pinning down weight was in fact nowhere near long enough, and when the weight landed in the weed the bait was pulled into the silk weed or to within a very short distance of my mainline. On this occasion two modifications to my rig helped me wheedle out a fish. The the length from hook to weight was lengthened to ten inches and I also changed my normal shot to a blob of tungsten putty which I flattened to help it stay on top of the weed. Both worked well in the edge.

Away from the lake I applied this theory, plus the way those tench fed, to my method rigs and concluded that unless my rigs landed in a clear patch it was highly unlikely, given the trajectory of my entering rig, that my bait would end up visible at all, and given the browsing nature of the tench at least maybe if they weren't rooting around hard they were never going to find my hook bait.

So I made up two new rigs which employed longer eight inch green mono hook links with a highly buoyant bait on the hook, which should be able to find its way above any silk weed and float above the attractive ball of free bait just above.

I couldn't wait to try this new theory out and short evening session seemed the perfect scenario to do so. Being out on summer nights is one of the true pleasures of fishing. The mosquitoes that swarm around the lake are not. Just setting up I could feel their beady little eyes staring at me as they pondered which part of me to stab with their proboscis.
Eventually after casting both rods out I sat back nestled between two reed beds to settle down with fresh bottle of insect replant. Upon spraying onto my face the smell hit me like a blast from the past, evoking the memory of my folks going out for the night and the smell of mum's perfume as she kissed me good bye at the door. As nice of a memory as that was, smelling like the perfume my mother wore in the late eighties is not that nice for a thirty five year old man who has a bank side reputation to uphold. To make it worse I still got bitten anyway!

The floral sent emanating from the reed bed did not deter the fish either, and soon enough a run bleeped into life as a respectable old looking bream picked up my bait.

As I was not putting any amount of bait out I regularly recast the rods into different areas in the hope of trying to land on or at least close to some fish to maximise my chances of capture. Only moments after repositioning both rods, another one was away; this fish dithered not and the bobbin slammed into the alarm ferociously. Not only do tench and bream bite differently, but they fight in very different ways. The bream just try to resist being pulled in by turning sideways, whereas the tench make massive kiting runs, keeping low right until they are under the rod tip. This was certainly a tench. Sure enough the round dorsal fin broke the surface just before the net was slipped under it.

Sadly after this fish the skies turned very black and the summer rain hammered onto the surface of the lake, seemingly ending the session instantly. I have seen little evidence that the tench feed that well once the light has gone, and considering their proclivity towards just browsing I wonder if they favour sight feeding over sniffing out food.

Though two fish a theory does not confirm, it does seem to have made a marked difference to the fortunes of my short sessions so far and is something I will stick with until my now lake obsessed brain thinks of something else as I continue trying to fathom those murky depths.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

The Lake #8 Which bites best

Bites! They are whole reason we go fishing. I know sometimes we say otherwise. Like when we roll out that old line 'It's just nice to be out in the countryside', which we all know is code for I blanked, but where I blanked sure looked nice. Given a choice I feel sure any angler if they were truly honest might admit that they would take a single bite rather than have a morning fishing in the pond located in the back right corner of the garden of Eden. The other thing we cannot deny is that when we are out enjoying the countryside we are surrounded by a plethora of fishing gear, that we probably sweated like a hog in august just to get to the bank, and if we were just out to enjoy the vistas we may just be minus all that.

Bites though when we get them are wondrous thing,s which we have given as many names as we have thought of ways of getting them. Nods, dips, runs, tugs, pulls, twitch, bangs, jerks, whatever you want to call them they are essentially the moment that establishes a link between us and our quarry and also the thing we desire most.
Now I for one believe there is no such thing as a bad bite. It is just not possible. Fair enough there are bites from things you don't really want to catch, but as they nearly always end in a wriggle they can't be bad.
For me perspective plays a large part. By this I mean where and how you got the bite. On commercial lakes stuffed to the reeds with starving carp a float that spends as much time under the water as it does above expected, but on a half frozen river in the depths on winter a single slow pull from a wild chub is an exciting surprise.

Some bites have now become cold and heartless. I myself spend so much time sitting behind electronic bite alarms that I sometimes ignore and forget old methods that have put many smiles upon my face, and whilst under the digital spell of the bite alarm it was precisely when this occurred to me.

What is my all time top five favourite bites? I thought it over for a while  and here they are in reverse order.

5.  The almost secret swirl of a surface feeding carp as it engulfs your bait.   

4. The 2ft twitch from a barbel in a warm witching hour.

3. The hoop of a big chub on a freezing river.

2. The sliding away of a big bulbous pike float on a chilly autumn day

1. The lift float bite from a tench on a misty lake on a summer morning

Just writing all five has me yearning to do them all and as my number one is aptly convenient right now I could not resist no matter what the consequences.

So on a summer Sunday morning I walked down to the misty quiet lake with little more than a rod and chair and after gently throwing in a little bait I sat and waited for fate to come my way.

There is no better sight


Here we go

Hold fast

Not yet

It's going

Strike, Jim!

The purity of the lift bite is amazing and what makes it stand out above all other bites is the amount of time it takes to develop. From the first hint that a fish is close by, then the rings that emanate from the float as your bait gets mouthed. Then when slowly the float rises before sliding away and you strike. Every aspect of it can be enjoyed and savoured before you connect with the powerful fish.

I had no thought that I would employ this tactic on the lake, but time on the bank has taught me otherwise and I have the cold aloofness of the bite indicator to thank for that. As whilst I have waited and used my ears to keep track of them, my eyes have been free to peer into the clear water and decipher closer goings on deep within the weed only feet from the bank.

After watching and savouring that wonderful bite I landed what for me, so far, has been the capture of this folly. It was not a giant and I did not have to wait 48hrs to catch it. But the capture this tench means probably more to than any of the other fish I have caught on the lake so far and maybe ever will.

Now strangely as I warm in the intermittent sun, I dream of autumn days pike fishing and frosty January mornings filled with the reek of cheese paste, when just one single amazing bite will do.