Monday, 29 April 2013

Getting all Ahab.

'I'm not saying I am exactly like a certain stove-pipe-hat-wearing-wooden-legged sea captain, but I have developed a few fishy obsessions over the years and it's only coincidence that some of those obsessions have been about large white fish'

For three hours I had moved slowly up and down the same thirty feet of heavily wooded bank and in those three hours I had barely made five casts. It was a little more than three hours ago that I gave up trying to fish through the crazy crew. You see, when I had arrived in the spinney and first viewed the water from the top of the path I had seen it was black with carp warming in the afternoon sun, and I was more than a little excited to get going. The first hour was a blur of insatiable feeding on the carps behalf and they never got bored sucking in the morsels of bread I was flicking onto the surface. It was just a pity that I was getting bored. It had only taken about twenty small fish for me to start thinking this is just too easy, as all carp caution was null and void today after a day baking their brains in the sun. 

It was about this time that as I stood beside a very sparse tree a huge pure white head slowly rose from under all the other fish and sucked in a single cube of crust, before sinking back below with a loud slurp. That was it for me, all other fish were forgotten; I had to have this white whale.
It would seem the frenzied sound of the other carp feeding was responsible for drawing the attentions of just about every fish in the lake, but caution kept some of the bigger ones holding back and underneath all of the others, only rising occasionally to engulf a the odd freebie here and there, and always out of range or in a awkward place. This one great white ghost though was betrayed by its colour, and  I could see it under all the other fish circling around. Its mass was unmissable  Not quite a twenty but it had to be close; this fish had graduated from the ranks and was now up there with the biggest of the pool.

The sun had been shining all day, and now it blazed down on me. I had to keep my hoodie on as the cream t-shirt I was wearing had made my presence obvious once already, and I needed to be close as possible to track this ghost as it was swimming so tight to the bank. So I stood sweltering, steaming up my Polaroids in my camo hoodie trying as best as possible to keep still and blend in with the back ground so as not to disturb my quarry.

Eyes and hands now operated totally independently  My hands cast a constant stream of small bread chunks   out onto the water by just flicking my wrist. My eyes though kept tabs on the faint white zeppelin which moved round with intent. It had no set routine to its movements, but after the first hour I had noticed it would feed on two totally different spots. At the tree where I stood there was an undercut it would glide into, then from this undercut its head would appear slowly. If a bit of bread was in the vicinity it would be sucked in for sure. But the problem was that the smaller fish in the melee would grab anything on the top no matter how far they had to travel to get it. This had resulted in me pulling out of many chances just to stop one of these interlopers spooking the ghost.

The other spot was further down the bank in front of a small reed bed. Three feet from the bank was a small clear patch about two feet round in the leaf litter, which I suspect was where someone had been disposing of leftover bait at the end of a sessions. I watched the white fish and a few other larger fish stop over and investigate this patch every so often. In watching this I realised that if I wasn't feeding the mob on the other side of the tree then all the noise they were making did not attract and keep the bigger fish going round in the area. Once the slurping stopped the fish underneath, including the ghost, drifted away with the mob.

Knowing this I began feeding larger amounts of bread onto the surface for a shorter period of time and then slipping down the bank to see if the bigger cautious fish were on the spot. In the next hour they only stopped on the spot twice and then only briefly. Eventually I dropped a free-lined bait onto the edge of the spot where I could see the bread against the dark bottom, then moved as quickly as I dared back round the tree and tossed a liberal amount of preprepared bread onto the surface. I could hear the slurps quickening as I went back and crouched close to the bank and picked up the rod. Then I watched as a small carp boldly swam up and picked up my bait. Hoping to try and dissuade it, I gently tugged the bait back which sent the culprit into a sudden panic, flying out of the swim along with several other fish including the ghost.

After that disaster I began the process of stirring up the mob all over again. I hadn't been at it that long before out of nowhere the ghost went back into the undercut at my feet. This was it! it was in there all I had to do was drop a bit of bread onto the water. All fingers and thumbs, a bit of bread finally got hooked up and gently I lowered it onto the surface only inches from the bank. Then a pair of lips appeared and the bread silently disappeared and I struck. My vintage speedia wailed the finest sound known to man as it bolted out into the lake. Worryingly though it came under control a bit too quickly, and all too soon a small common surfaced. I would never take out my frustrations on a fish but I was mad hell with this one. I managed to steer it away and landed it in a quiet corner unhooking it quickly in the net and dipping it free unable to even enjoy the sight of it.

I walked back slowly thinking I could not face the build up again if another small carp was going to force my hand and spook the ghost off. Kneeling on the floor behind the with my rod under my arm I baited my hook again and as I did I saw the ghost move slowly past me down the bank in the direction of the spot. In a momentary reaction I swung the bait towards the patch spot. How I knew the combined length of my rod plus the same amount of line would reach the spot was anyone's guess. I suppose it just seemed about right.
As I stood slowly behind the tree I could see my bait sinking slowly and the ghosts demeanour change. It had seen it for sure and it was going for it. Its weird that you can sometimes tell when a fish is about to eat your bait, and this one was. It moved steadily towards the now stationery bread with a second fish in tow. Then it slowed and the second fish was now level. Both heads dipped, both mouths sucked, and I hoped that the ghost had won. The bait was gone and I had to strike. I flicked the rod up and at that moment the water made that sound it only makes when something big displaces a large amount of water. The rod buckled over and the pin screamed and it made for deep water. My breaking of the spool with my left hand turned the fish and it kited right. That's when I saw the white shape under the surface seemingly attached to my line.  Back and forth the line went and every now and again a yellowish tail or white mouth broke the surface before it again surged away. Eventually it slowed and began circling close to the bank. The net was dipped already and then it surfaced and the sight knocked me back!

Turns out the ghost had lost out to its companion but the sight that met me was never going to disappoint.  Once on the surface it slipped straight into the net good as gold, and looking down into the net I was transfixed. It was close to ten inches wide across the shoulders and did not have a single scale on its entire body. She was the most beautiful leather carp I have ever seen first hand. She had that big carp look that indicates it could turn into a mighty fish, and from the looks of it had never been caught before. Even though she was still a little way off a mid double she was by far one of the most amazing looking carp I have caught in my entire life.

And it was more than enough to make me forget that white whale!

Thursday, 25 April 2013

A nice pair of tattys.

It always has and always will make me a little sad to see fish with mouth damage. Unfortunately this is a largely unavoidable side effect of angling in such a densely populated area.  If I lived right up in the highlands or possibly on a reed island deep in the broads I feel sure I probably would never see such things, but here in the very centre of England there is enough anglers actively fishing to keep a substantial amount of fishery owners clad in barbour, and with so many anglers, angling accidents will always happen. Whether it is a poorly made rig that cracks off mid cast or just the ubiquitous unseen snag, the fact remains that baited hooks get left in lakes and they continue fishing even if no one is attached to them.
I have to believe that it is accidents that cause these hideous injuries to the fish I love because if I did not, so much anger would well up inside me at the thought that these injuries were avoidable that I would probably have a 'falling down' moment before never fishing again.
Though this said, the thing that caused me to write this blog does have a slightly tainted yet happy ending, I think.

Not long into my latest tench foray I had a timid run on a rod fished way out into the early starting lake I have been fishing on.  The fight was as exactly as I would of expected for a tench of this size. The fish itself seemed perfectly normal until it came to the net cord, and just as it did I got a view of a very odd face. It was like when a human shaves off their eyebrows and it changes their face, and you can't for a moment reason why this is until you realise it's the one tiny element missing that makes them look odd.

Something was missing from this fish which made it look from a little way off like it only had half a head. It wasn't until I got it on the mat and took a close up gander that its lack of bottom lip became obvious. Now it's not a common sight on this lake, and the moment I saw it something clicked in my mind. I had seen somewhere before a fish with a terrible injury not that different to this. I can't for the life of me remember if it was Roger or Baz who caught it, but sometime in the last two years one of them landed a tench whose mouth had been split down the middle by what looked like a tethered rig.  Seeing this fish I wonder if it might be the same one all healed up, and in the best possible way I hope it is, as at the time of seeing that picture of that injured tench, I remember thinking 'that fish will never make it'. But if it is the same one she was obviously feeding quite well and considering her lack of lower lip she was in great condition.

I feel kind off ungrateful saying this but somewhere in my mind I hoped the suns warming rays would be shaded off the water by the promised impending cloud cover. I know we need the sun to warm the water and I know we have just spent months whining about the cold, but I was feeling a little selfish on this trip as it was my only chance to fish for a few days, and the water warming could wait a few more hours whilst I fished, for all I cared.

I did get into a couple more fish before the sun got very bright and the very last fish to snaffle my critically balanced bait was hugely long female that I again thought I recognised it.  Last year I saw the bailiff of this water, a man now simply known as Blakey, catch a fish that looked very similar to mine with practically the same worn down tail, at around seven pounds. The only thing that puts doubt in my mind is the weight difference. Because on my practically new and very much checked scales it weighed 5.1lb. Even given that she was exceptionally lean all over I not sure if  a tench is capable of being almost two pounds lighter just after winter than it was in the middle of last summer.

Identification and weight quandries aside, this was still my biggest tench of the year so far and one I wouldn't mind catching again in around, mmm... the start of June would be nice.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

A perfect start.

I was all alone as I crept along the causeway which intersects the lakes, not one other angler was present and neither was the owner John, who I had passed leaving as I arrived. We have known each other for so many years now that he has no problems entrusting the keys to the fishery to me and leaving me alone for the evening.
For the time of year it was relatively quiet on both pools. The constantly bickering Canadian geese were off in the farmers fields risking their necks to steal fresh shoots for a pre-roost snack. As for the other avian occupants of the trees, it was a little hard to hear their calls due to the remnants of the strong south west wind still howling through the trees that make up the spinney that surrounds the lake. But it was that wind that had drawn me to the causeway as I knew that's where the last warm rays of the days sun would fall, warming the water as it did.

As approached the first of the three snaggy areas I was headed for, I spotted two dark shapes sink slowly into the ripple and out into the lake. Maybe my presence had sent them off, maybe my stalking skills were a bit rusty after a few years away from such malarkey's. With only a bag of freebies in hand I stopped anyway to scatter a few sparing handfuls just off the snag hoping there may be a few unseen fish lingering around. Through my polarised lenses I could see the free baits slowly sinking out of sight. As the second handful sank, a shoal of rudd came firing through the falling baits, jerkily grabbing them as they. It must have been warming up if they were feeding so high in the water.

The next spot showed not so much as a oily swirl as I sneaked in. I watched for a few minutes before again baiting close enough to fish but not so close as I couldn't cast, before moving onto my third and favourite spot. What I found was exactly what I wanted. I believe on all lakes and ponds there is a quiet corner that is so often ignored and it is in that corner that more often than not that any flotsam and scum collects. On this woodland lake that scum line means guaranteed carp.

I walked purposely slow as I neared this last intend spot and as I did my eyes bugled so much I swear the polaroids raised off my nose a little. In amongst the skeletal branches basking in the sun were twenty or more carp of every shape and size. This was going to be tricky with so many fish in such a small area! So to start with I took a chance a flicked three or four floaters into the ripple and let them ride naturally in on the ripple just in case they might take some floating bait. Every freebie floated straight over their heads and into the scum unnoticed.  Next a few grains of corn were plopped amongst them, which did not go down well at all, sending a quarter of the fish flying out into the lake. After racking my brain and delving deep into my bag I found the small bag of micro pellets which I had been meaning to put back into the shed for ages. They hardly made a sound as they hit the surface then slowly sank. Some even rolled over bodies of the fish they were meant to attract. By the third handful something happened I have never seen. In total unison the remaining fifteen or so carp sank like submarines. They did not move backwards or dip their heads, they just sank out of sight.

Leaning against the old fence I could see all three swims. In the first the carp had seemingly gone, in the second nothing had been there in the first lace but in the third and my favourite, the water had begun to bubble like a cauldron. I tried to leave it alone but the temptation was just too much. A bait had to go in! A large pinch of bread which had been shaken up in the now empty pellet bag was flicked over the spot and drawn back across the surface. The float slid across the surface stopping a few inches shy of cocking  Sitting on the floor with the rod held firm in one hand and resting across my leg I pulled tension into the line with my free hand.

The instant that float cocked it began dancing like a dervish. Those carp were on that bait like tramps on chips and it was instantly clear that if I was not careful someone was getting foul hooked. Practically at the same time as I uttered those words to myself the float shot straight up before sliding off towards the back of the swim and I struck. The fish then paused as if thinking what to do before the reel screamed. In the first run  it made it to the opposite bank before turning and tracking the bank straight back, crashing right through all the still feeding fish sending them flying in all directions.

The carp in this lake are a real mixed bunch and could never be described as thoroughbreds  They have come to ether in dribs and drabs over many years. Some have been rescue jobs from other lakes, others are born and bred but one thing always remains certain, you never know what sort of carp had taken your bait and this rang very true when the charging fish had calm down enough to find its way into the folds of my net.

What he lacked in size it made up for in spirit and looks. It certainly had a hint of ghosty in it somewhere, although common carp seemed dominant  But like most fish that end up in this pool they seem to start reverting back to a wild like form after some time.

I always try to walk away from where I have just caught a fish like this and to all intents and purposes I should have gone off a tried one of the other two spots, if only just to give this one a break. However the water was still bubbling away as carp snuffled around in the snag sucking up the tiny pellets that were provoking their scent glands. Maybe the first charging fish had thinned out their ranks, but when I repeated the routine of casting over the spot and drawing the bait back the float this time hardly danced at all when under tension.

Everything had settled down nicely. Regular bubbles still broke the surface but the float was motionless. I was comfortable sitting aside the still barren bush. A tree creeper had just appeared on the trunk of a tree about ten feet to my left and it was as I watched it moving up the tree that I felt the line in my left hand tension slightly  My float was gone and the fish was off! I had not even got half a strike in before the reel sang its beautiful tune. This was exactly what I had been dreaming of during all those cold dark nights of winter. Screaming reels, floats sliding under and rods bending as if attached to ships. I could not help but smile inanely as I was in pure heaven. Then a pug nosed liner beauty made me even more happy.

I could not help but revel in the joy that was being in the right place at the right time. Two more smaller hard fighting commons and a rouge chub snaffled my bread baits from under the snag before what I thought was a tench took my bait. I will never know truly what it was as it threw the hook as its dark back broke the surface.

After that I had to leave the swim alone as six fish had smashed it up and the carp seemed to have been spooked away. Half an hour fruitless fishing in each of the of the other swims had me considering heading home, but I could not resist one last cast back in the original spot and I am glad I did go back.

The sun had disappeared behind the horizon and now the air temperature was dropping rapidly. Occasional bubbles still broke the surface around my float. I had not had one single indication of anything around my bait but I knew one or two stragglers still mooched around looking for leftovers. Then it came, the most perfect bite so far. The float bobbed once sending circular ripples out over the now still water, then jerkily the float rose clear of the water falling backwards. The fish then tuned and the float slid on its side across the surface before half cocking and sliding out of sight attached to this last but perfect chunky common.

It had been a sublime start to a summers carp fishing, exactly what I was dreaming it would be and now I can't wait to go again next week if the weather stays nice and  warm.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

At last... a tench has come along. My lonely days are over, and life is like a song.

I don't mind admitting that just lately I have been biding my time a little, and now after much waiting and biding the weather has finally come around enough  for me to start some tench fishing.  And it's about bloody time too, as by my reckoning it's nearly a month later getting to this point than it was last year. I was beginning to worry I might develop a severe case of the DT's if I couldn't dig in after the doctor fish soon.

As warm blooded life forms that exist in an environment where the temperature changes quickly, I think we often struggle to relate to our cold blooded neighbours trapped in an aquatic world. Living in the thin air with warm blood means that we can appreciate the rise in temperature quickly as it increases, whereas our slimy friends under the water probably wont's see any marked change for days as their more viscous environment takes much longer to heat than ours. Where I think we struggle to relate is when the sun shines, warming our environment, we automatically assume that the water too has risen by however many degrees on a par with our own. This quite often ends up in the situation I am sure many anglers found themselves in this weekend just past, where they assumed the time was here to abandon slowly, slowly, catchy, monkey in favour of the 'have all this munga and get on my line' approach.

This past week the temperature had climbed by ten degrees, the sun now shone and every type of media in England ran stories heralding the arrival of Spring. Maybe if one of the weekly angling publications gave a crap about more than just filling their pages with adverts they might of ran a headline along the lines of 'Springs arrives! But the water is still cold so don't go mad lads!!!'

Even knowing the water was still cold, tench had to be my quarry for a couple of sessions this weekend, because luckily one of my favourite tench waters wakes up very early and good sport can be had at least three weeks before most other tench venues really get into the swing of things. It was with that in mind that I cashed in my one remaining lieu day so as I could spend an entire day on the banks of this early starter, and try and see how the land was lying now the belated spring had sputtered into existence.

To be frank I thought I had arrived before the fish had woken up as over the course of the first hour tales of woe from other anglers were conveyed to me. Add to that the generally silent nature of my bite indicators and the way my bobbins hung lifelessly and I was getting a bit concerned, as I knew if the fish were in the mood it quite often happens pretty quickly here. I just needed a little sign of interest to calm me down...

What joy just two bleeps can bring! Most times a single bleep means very little, on a windy day blame is easily associated to the waves for two bleeps, but on a calm day two bleeps means so much more than one. So with those precious two bleeps my entire demeanour flipped and confidence was restored. Something was there and it was inclined towards my hook.

I left it alone more than long enough, the whole time wishing it would tear away until so long had passed that I had to check the rig for some kind of failure. I held the hook up to the sky to check it was OK before I pulled it over my thumb nail and just as the sharpness grated through my nerves the other indicator sounded as the light bobbin jerked up an inch or so. That was enough for me to drop one rod and strike the other one in one fluid movement.

One hour and forty minutes in and my first tench of 2013 made its way in a rather subdued manner towards my net. Whether it took fifty yards for the fish to wake up or it was trying to lull me into some false sense of security was anyone guess, but as it neared the bank it went berserk and fought for easily ten times longer than it had taken to get it to where it was, until finally it passed over the cord and ended the winter for me. Though outwardly calm and smiling inside my head a raucous fanfare was under way in rejoice of this most important fish for me of the year for me.

The next fish turned out to not be a subtle as the first. Baz had turned up with carp in mind and was setting up just down the bank and it was while chatting with him as he unpacked his gear that my right hand rod went into what can only be described as meltdown. It was one of those moments when your bite indicator goes from silent to single tone instantly, and then I seemed to be running on the spot like a cartoon character trying to reach the rod.

Another lean female on the mat looked in great condition apart from some strange red patches which seemed stained into her skin. They were nether raised or open and did not seem to be detrimental to the fish. I wondered whether they were something to do with what they had been eating, but apparently it is something called red pest which is supposedly a harmless bacterial infection, according to Baz.

I had to wait four hours for the next spell of activity and this lead me to believe that the fish could well of been feeding in  short spells. The first of which coincided with the air temp going into double figures, and the second I suppose could be attributed to the time it takes for the first lot of food from the mornings feeding to be digested. Hence hours later the action began again after a hint of enquiry and a bit of wait another dithering bite emerged and third but pale female found the net.

It was me that was dithering this time as I packed away. Baz had just left and I should have been going but as per normal I had got to that everything I could packed away and now I hung around just in case. It turned out I was right and  just before I pulled the rods a forth fish took the bait. This one though smashed the lake up surging all over the shop and that can only indicate one thing. A mental little male tench to finish.

I returned Sunday for another crack but this was a different day all together  White horses rode over the lake and just setting up was a hassle with the wind coursing down onto the deeper bank where I was intent on fishing. I could of set up under the wind, but to do so I would of had to fish the shallower bank and the idea of trying to make long casts towards the deep water with the wind intersecting my cast seemed sensless. So I fought it out with the wind in my face.

The thought that this was about to be a total nightmare occurred to me as the first rod I had cast out repeatedly bleeped as I tried to cast my second. That was until the indicator made a few too many bleeps to be wind. The still un-cast road was gently stowed on the rests before I picked up the first and struck into my first fish of the day. The line had hardly settled and I was into a fish. It was the smallest one of the whole weekend, but you can imagine that it kind of got me thinking I was about to bag up.

Five hours and one dropped run later I sat wind whacked and flabbergasted at the lack of action. I had spent the whole morning being as proactive as possible. Some baits were left in situ for long periods whilst others where recast repeatedly and with much aggravation from the wind in an attempt to try and locate fish. 

It wasn't until noon had past that I hit a tentative pick up and felt visceral insanity that could only mean I was attached to another small male tench. He pulled out all the stops but happily my well tuned rigs and set up seem to be doing very well from the off this year and have so far left me six for six and culminated with me landing this minter.

Nothing massive came my way but this weekend proved to be a great warm up. Right now I have one hundred percent confidence in my rigs using the method feeder and I hope the same can be said when I change them for maggot feeders in a few weeks time. As for the tench, they all seem to have come through the winter no worse for ware. Unlike me who has piled on a few pounds scoffing starchy stuff in the cold they seem relatively as lean as they should be after such a prolonged cold spell, and it wont take them long to plump up as I hopefully slim down a bit.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

I nearly pooped myself.

Two or more years ago I witnessed the capture of a huge roach from one of my local club waters, and when I say huge roach, I mean a huuuge roach. The irony of  that capture was that I, the witness, was more excited about it that the captor.   
The chap who caught it, without being derogatory, was quite obviously a novice judging by the way he handled his gear, and  indeed what he was using to fish. But neither tackle or experience counted diddly squat in this instance as he had landed by chance the largest roach I have ever seen in the flesh. To compound the insanity of the situation even more he beached the poor thing onto a concrete bank before unhooking, flipping it back. Afterwards he turned and proclaimed to me, who I should say was standing agog wide eyed and slack jawed, that what he really wanted was one of the ten pound carp he'd seen drifting around under the surface.

The image of that gargantuan roach has been burned in my mind ever since and although I have not obsessed over it, it has remained high on my investigating list, which by the way is a considerable length. With the season gone and year round lakes now high on my agenda, I decided it was about time I went back and did some roach fishing at the site where I last saw that amazing fish.

Snitterfield reservoir can only be described as a bleak looking place on its best day. Keith summed it up very well while talking him the other day, when he said it was like fishing on the moon and he is right, it is like sitting on the edge of one of those giant lunar craters, as though filled with water. Other than its barren look this lakes distinctive feature is it's generous fish population; honestly on the right day this is the barrel referred to in the saying, 'shooting fish in a barrel'. I once arrived there at half nine with two pints of fresh maggots on a sunny day. By eleven thirty I was floater fishing for carp! not because I had seen any carp about, but rather to keep the boiling and voracious silvers of all sizes on the feed, I had used every grub in my bait tub in little over and hour and a half. 

Even in the dead of winter the roach feed hard, and plying a pint or so of fluro pinkies into the water can reward with very respectable nets of roach. So that was my plan for this trip. I knew the water would still be a long way off warming up, but hopefully the roach would still be in winter mode whilst the sun might be twanging at their appetites.

I can't deny thinking quite arrogantly to myself before I cast out 'are you ready for this' as I sat there looking out over the sheet of water. Turns out I was not ready for this, as what I was thinking what might happen did not;  there was no cue for my free offerings and after an hour I had scratched little more than two small roach. Fine lines, small hooks and clock work catapulting of small quantities of grubs was not doing the business at all. I searched all depths of the water in front of me from hard on the bottom all the way up to merely inches from the surface and found zip.

After a further hour of sticking it out, it had become plainly obvious it was either a case of no fish or no feed. So as I quite often do in situations like this, I made a move to the very opposite sort of swim to the one I had begun in, and in Snitterfield's case that means a swim that looks exactly the same at the opposite end of the lake. The move was fruitful to a certain extent but was my no means bountiful. In the new shallower area the water was obviously warmer but still not quie enough to spark the whole ecosystem off, and the result was just more small roach.

As I had right until dusk available I made the decision to stick it out and gamble that as sun dipped off the water and the skies darkened, maybe just maybe, a spell of heavy feeding might ensue. But it was way before this that the high light of the day occurred...

After loads of really poor bites where the black antenna of my crystal waggler never went fully below the surface, I watched another timid wobble suddenly just slide away confidently to my left. The strike was met with a fabulous hooping of carbon and vibrations being sent along the now tensioned line, that was the most glorious repetitive banging a roach angler could wish for. 

This was a decent fish and it was keeping very deep with some serious determination. Not daring to put too much pressure on the hair-like hook link I let the clutch loose and let the rod absorb the fishes power. Then when it first rolled I swear I nearly pooped myself instantly! It was huge, and more importantly it was silver. The net was in my hand from relatively early in the fight and I always knew I would take the slightest chance to net the fish. The head of the net was submerged ready so when I saw it roll again right over it, I automatically lifted.

After letting the bale arm off the now rested rod, I pulled the net towards me through the water before lifting it out. Even under the surface I could see the perfectly silver scales and just as I lifted it into the light the sun peeped out and caught that pearl stomach.

Can you imagine my disappointment when took my first glance at the huge roach of my dreams and saw this bastard half breed.

Yes my over romantic mind had convinced me in those moments of panic that what I was fighting was of course a thoroughbred roach, not a two pound, four ounce halfling. I was gutted to have made such a snap assumption, as I know only too well this lake has a very strong contingent of these hard fighting fish.

Although it was not the wonder roach I saw that day it was still a nice fish to catch on a awkwardly fishing day. The capture of this and many others over the years has raised a small amount of doubt in my mind about whether the fish I saw caught on that day might have been a hybrid, BUT I can see it perfectly in my mind right now as type this and I am convinced it was one hundred percent a roach. All I have to do is buy all the maggots in Warwickshire, catch a few hundred thousand fish from Snitters and I should be able to find it.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

The frozen and the furious.

Someone said to me the other day that it just did not feel worthwhile for him to sit out fishing in the freezing weather for probably so little, so he did not bother going out. I mulled over what he had said and wondered why I never felt like this... I concluded that firstly I always believe not matter how much everything is against me that there is always a chance I could catch the fish of my dreams, and secondly because I already know that if I could fish every day for the rest of my entire life it would still not be enough for me. I love being out fishing that much that I can't let a single opportunity pass me by for fear of regretting it on my death bed.

Even with my strong resolve I knew that the inclement conditions this weekend just passed would push me right to the very limit of endurance once again in this never ending winter. So I wasn't disappointed when I arrived at the canal Friday morning and saw this!

I think somewhere in the back of my mind I knew it was going to be a little frozen, but I just went anyway because no ice was going to stop me fishing on the first day of my bank holiday weekend. Clearing a hole ten feet wide by as far as my landing net would reach took no time at all, but I suspected a long wait might be on the cards for a bite as the whole process of holing the ice was somewhat less than silent.

The next few hours could be described as what separates men from boys, and insane from the sane. Even wrapped up with more layers than could be recalled, the cold wind still managed to drop my body temperature enough to raise a bout of shivering. Even with the shakes I still managed to keep my vigil up staring at my neon orange float framed by the ice.

Thank the boating gods for holiday barges on frozen days that's all I can say. Normally these inexperienced one off captains drive canal anglers mad with their inability to steer a straight line. Today though I could have kissed every one that passed me by. Whether they were just unable to stay in the one boat wide pass cut by the more experienced boaters or whether they liked the sound of cracking ice I don't know and don't care, as the passing of five holiday boats had the entire ice sheet smashed into small bits and then the wind took care of the rest, sending it all off to I cared not where.

It wasn't that long after the shattered ice was dispersed that somewhere in the rhythmical ripple of the canal surface that my float broke rhythm for a split second. I suspected this hint was an early warning, and a while later it again broke the rhythm holding under when it should of been bobbing up. Then it moved across the tow and I needed no more evidence to strike.

The first fish was small by this areas standards, but this sub average fish was to herald of a flurry of activity. Five more torpid perch shyly moved off with my bait over the next half an hour and although no one bite submerged the float fully, not one enquiry was missed. The best of this determined to feed bunch was a very tubby gal a few ounces short of two pounds.

Messing around with all that ice got me thinking that any further time spent fishing this weekend would be more efficiently allotted to afternoon sessions, and as the clocks went forward I could find myself able to fish well into the dusk. So my on next session I headed to a small woodland lake which in cold temperatures goes gin clear. I knew for sure it would be totally deserted and half suspected it should be free of ice to some degree, largely due to multiple squabbling pairs of Canadian geese that turn up around this time every year and kick off at any given opportunity. The geese were present and from the look of all the smashed ice they had been at it all morning. Just over half the lake was clear and every spot was free of anglers so it was all mine for the afternoon and all the way to night fall.

Sometimes I think to actually catch the species you want its easier to target another species instead. Whenever fishing for perch I general have a few carpy run ins and as I fancied catching a carp I thought I would fish for perch then. At first it did not work as the perch actually did oblige me and gobbled up my worm as it fluttered down through the clear water.

With the adjusted time I soon realised it was getting on for quarter past seven and the sky was still very light and around then what can only think were roach started fiddling with my bait. This went on for ages as I imagined what was going on under the surface. Then out of nowhere all attentions ceased momentarily before my light float disappeared in the blink of an eye.

My strike just bent my rod over against a solid weight which did nothing at first. Then as the information was processed the solid force powered off, this was no perch! It was not one of those dramatic fights where I and the fish vie for line, but instead the culprit plodded around only half awake on the cold evening. Eventually it did succumb to my careful resistance and when I first caught sight of it my eyes lit up.

Could my first carp of the year be any better looking! I do not think so. It was nowhere near the biggest carp I have caught but deep gold flanks and chestnut head made it by far one of the best looking carp I have landed, ever.

This was one of those occasions when I did not need to hang round and cast again. I was satisfied and wanted nothing to sully this perfect moment. So I packed up straight after I watched that splendid clear water carp drift back into the depths.

It was the canal which called me back for my third and final session of the holiday weekend. I know the perch here are up for it, and with the temperature rising to a heady four degrees Celsius I fancied they might come hard on the feed. So mid Monday afternoon, after a jaunt over to Stratford to watch the Earlsdon morris men getting rat arsed down the road from old Bill's house, I headed back to the canal.

Happily not a single ice crystal was anywhere to be seen and the canal looked to be in tip top condition for a spot of perch fishing. So after settling down and baiting up just off my rod tip on the near side shelf  with a mixture of worm infused goodies I waited.

It's worth saying at this point that I have stopped using chopped worms on this and all my perch waters, as frankly its getting very expensive chopping up wholesale amounts of worm and chucking them into the void. So I am now instead using what can only be described as a grotty mix of puréed prawns, chopped prawn, the odd lobworm and a few squirts of Van den eynde liquid worm. It might sound just as expensive but I can assure you it is not. I buy the cheapest prawns I can at £1.50 for 500g, the lobworms I throw into the mix are generally ones I have used as hook baits or odd half's and small ones. The Van den eynde liquid worm is the only real cost at around four pounds but that lasts for ages. So the attraction for a trip only costs me a around £2.50 for a half day or £4 for a whole as compared to £12 per half a kilo of worms plus hook baits.

The perch took ages to turn up to the party but when they did they came slowly but regularly. All in all I had ten bites and nine fish. Bar one they were all pretty average fish at around a puond and half to a pound and three quarters  So when I sat down a did a bit of rough maths I reckon I ended up with nine fish for around 12-13lb which is a respectable canal catch on any day, never mind after the canals only been thawed for a half a day.

Saying that though its not the weight that matters to me but the fish themselves  Every strike was met with a surging run and close quarter fights of sheer violence. Once in the net it did not stop there - these perch were indignant at being caught. Furious and bristling head to tail. Their spines were never down, they flared the gills and even arched there backs in shear anger. They were the pure personification of what a perch should look like and a joy absolute to catch.