Thursday, 24 July 2014

The Lake #29 Some serious green.

It was still humid and hot and the sun only just still lit the lake as I watched a shoal of rudd nervously lipping at the surface. From nowhere a near two foot wide section of water right on the edge of the shoal just disappeared like a massive plug had just been pulled under it on the bottom of the lake, which was followed by a massive swirl. At first I couldn't fathom what I had just seen and instantly my float became forgotten as I stared intently as the shoal reformed. Obviously a large predator of some kind had just hit the shoal of rudd, but the attack just seemed different, strange in some way.
It took a while to happen again and before it did the shoal had done several turns around the swim. But as I hoped it might, once again a second hole appeared in the smooth surface of the water and this one was followed by a vortex , a swirl and the momentary view of an unmistakable tail! It was the sight of that tail which drew me back to the bank of the lake as soon as possible and this time I was proper tooled up!

I was in no rush as I leisurely set up sitting on my bed under the trees, as what I was hunting for is largely associated with the night and I still had a few hours till dusk. It was good I wasn't rushing as it gave me time to check and recheck my rigs and knots were up to the job. The Eagle wave hooks were spine tingly sharp as I ran them over my nail, the 60lb Dacron hook link and knots stood up to being pulled as hard as I could pull them and the knot that secured my 20lb line to the swivel was so good that the line wrapped around my sleeve covered hand I swear began cutting through the material of my jumper.

I was ready to go and I'd thought about this long and hard. I knew it was a sizable catfish I'd seen hunting in the margin a few nights ago and I wanted in on that action. Seeing it surface feeding had drawn my to use a dumbbell rig to suspend a bait off the bottom. But the only cat I had ever caught from this pool came to a bottom bait and that made me think my second rig had to be on the deck. The summer rules forced me to fish a massive load of worms as my suspended bait and as it was a fishy bait that tempted that first cat, I ladled in some very heavily scented munga to help attract a night prowling moggie to my two 30mm donkey chokers that was fishing on the bottom.

It was actually hard to get to sleep as I was quite excited about the night ahead. But somehow I did manage to drift off just as dark crept in as I lay stewing in the scent of some weapons grade mozzie repellant. The night it turned out was fitful. All night I was getting liners on my bottom bait rod and I knew it would probably be a shoal of bream mopping me out and that it would only be a matter of time before one got the monster pellets into its cake hole.

I only had to get up a couple of times in the night, once to deal with a foul hooked bream that was only just maturing from silver to brown. The only other real action of the night was the single bit of interest was that my six lobworms drew. Around 2am I had a definite proper pull on that line which caused the buzzer to signal a slow take which suddenly stopped. I did check the bait only to find three of the worms severed in half which I suspect may have been done by an eel.

Considering all the disturbances from my sounder box hanging above my head I actually got quite a good nights kip. So when the sun began to rise I was up and moving around. All had been quite for the last few hours of dark but as I stood rubbing the sleep from my eyes the bottom bait rod again sounded another liner. It was that liner that caused me to look through the light summer mist towards my baited area, and what I saw changed the game in a big way!

I had thought that before getting to bed I might have a go with a float rod, but the disturbance I had made chucking in bait put me off. Now though I was scrabbling to get that float rod set up. The swim looked like it had a pot full of alkaseltzers chucked in it. There was tench fizzing all over the area and they were really getting their heads down judging by the frequency of the rising patches of bubbles. Slowly and carefully I teased the heavy lead out of the swim before also removing the second rod just in case.

With the rig set a little over depth I cast the float out into the mist and drew it back onto the fish. The float was warning me by way of a myriad of dips and sways that there was quite a few fish moving around, and it wasn't long till I got my first bite. Nothing quite wakes you up as striking into a good fish and it ripping of like a marlin in the mist. This fish really went for it in the shallow water and was fighting harder than anything else I have caught from the lake in a long time. I took it very easy on the fish playing it lightly on the clutch as it again surged off and eventually it came towards my sunken net Just as I lifted the handle hard the fish rolled and I saw a black flank. The whole fight I was convinced I had a tench on but now with me capture hidden by the folds of my oversized net I was unsure of what I had just netted.

All was explained when I pulled up the net and revealed what the mysterious black beast was. Turns out it was a tench and a big old male as well, hence the hard fight. In the water it did look black but on the mat I could see that it was actually dark green fading into black.

Several years ago I caught a similar almost black fish from another estate lake and I even heard tell of a fish from the same lake years ago that was red. This fish was a real old warrior and as well as it unusual colouring had some of the most prominent pelvic bones I've ever seen on a tench. Kneeling down holding it in the water it occurred to me that this could be the grandfather of all the tench I have been catching lately and it was real pleasure to see the old gent cruise of back into the lake and to his harem.

I'd no sooner dried my hands after releasing the first fish that I looked up to see the spot was still very obviously getting hammered by the tench. I was straight back on it like white on rice and within minutes I had an odd sliding bite which I struck and felt a fish before it was gone. That was no bother though as they seemed still in a frenzy and were undeterred by any fuss I'd just caused.

The next fish I didn't miss, but it did send probably every resident of the swim scattering. It went instantly out of the swim before turning and hammering straight through the still feeding fish. In the shallow water the result was obvious. I reckon I saw at least ten other fish bow wave off in every direction as the hooked fish barged through them. Moments later I had the smallest tench of the season in my net and half laughing I did curse her for ruining my swim or so I thought!

I decided to take a chance and introduce the little bit of ground bait I had left whilst the swim was quiet. Simply I put four more loosely squeezed balls that I knew would smash on entry onto the spot. Knowing it might be a while before anything came back in I began breaking camp so I could get home and have bath before I had to be at work. The shelter was down and the barrow was half loaded before I looked up to see tench fizz once again appearing on the outer limits of my baited area.

Judging by the individual patches of bubbles I reckoned that there was four or more fish creeping back in quite tight line. Not wanting to cast a bait right onto them I quickly dropped what I was doing and grabbed the rod again. I managed to get the bait in place before they came right onto the spot and now it was just a case of waiting and hoping one of them would pick up my hook bait from amongst the freebies.

Soon enough they slowly moved in sending hundreds of tiny bubbles up as they methodically moved across the bait. I knew something was about to happen when the float began swaying from side to side. I was so in tune to what was going on that I was all over it when the float began to rise, so much so in fact that I struck before the quill even began to fall over as the fish lifted the small weight off the bottom. There was no savage run just solid resistance and slight thumping. The fish swung out to the left banging its head like a bream before the rod took a serious bend. The fish felt big and I was sure it was a tench but the fight was laboured and heavy. The culprit took little line from the spool really and just kept swinging from one side to another banging its head. Then when it swirled towards the surface the amount of water is shifted was epic. Time and time again as I drew it closer it just dived down causing massive areas of disturbed water before it finally rolled over and big yellow mouth and red eye popped up. Good as gold it slid into the massive net I had submerged in the edge. I did that thing we all do when you get something special in the net and lifted the net to draw the fish up whilst sticking my head in it and what I saw got my heart thumping even more than it had been before.

I thought it looked big in the water, then out out of the water it seemed even bigger. It was generally a large fish across the shoulders and in length, but this was easily the fattest tench I had ever seen before and straight away I knew where this was going. I was so careful with her as she looked like one of those fish that without the neutralising effects of water supporting her she was quite uncomfortable. I worked as fast as I could to get everything done and confirmed before finally I lifted up her awkward bulk to get a few quick photos of the largest tench I have ever been lucky enough to hold and a new PB which amazingly and to my joy was caught on a lift float.  

Thursday, 17 July 2014

The Lake #28 This consistency is starting to unnerve me.

Honestly I have never seen anything like this on this lake. Coombe has been and will be again a harsh and fickle mistress. I have known it give so much and then take it all back again and again. But right now I find myself having to use a word that I never thought I would use in reference to Coombe pool fishery. Consistent! I know I will probably regret that as I've probably cursed my run, but Coombe right now is very consistent (holy crap, I said it again). It's been so consistent (that's three times!) that my sessions are becoming a blur and I find myself having to make notes to retain information and combine two or three sessions into one write up as I am fishing there so much.

Only forty eight hours had passed before I was again in the southern lily swim. I know I've been fishing in this area a lot as most of the banks side wildlife has become oblivious to my presence. The rabbits don't even run in panic, the normally twitchy moorhen that lives in the reeds won't even give me a second look and a grass snake slithered right over my feet the other day and may have winked at me as it did so.

Like me the tench were once again around and after causing a little commotion baiting up they were soon well aware that dinner was served. Although the wind wasn't playing big a factor, the lake did for some reason seem to be towing hard tonight. Luckily I still had the heavier rig set up  from the last outing and that was soon cast just beyond the lillies. I had to wait for an age sitting on my hands for the fish to actually come onto my spot , which was an uncomfortable situation as the sky was clear and the sun was reflecting off the water up into my face. Eventually it sank below the trees and on the now golden surface the tench were sending up signs that I was about to have a visitor.

I missed a proper sitter of a bite somehow. It was the real deal as well, fizz bob lift the works. After toughing it out through the glare I was livid, but I hadn't caused a disturbance and that was the important thing. Then within a quarter of an hour the float shot up I struck and the fish went for the pads. Some how I turned it, then I shot out into the lake like a bullet and rinsed me out totally. Now I was kicking myself and my swim was surely done. I don't know why I cast again but I did. Just as the light really began to go I saw signs that a fresh batch of tench were drifting along the lily bed.

It got to that stage when you can hardly make out your float through the dark I waited so long. My patience was rewarded though when my float just slowly lifted and lay on the surface. Lucky it did do that as if it sank I really don't think I would have spotted it there was so little light, were as the white quill lying on the surface was easily seen in the dark. My strike was met with no venomous run but instead by dead weight. A big humped back appeared lolling around around on the top. It was a bream that wallowed in and as I dragged it toward the net I realised that this ancient scabby old slab was only the forth one I had caught this season from this supposed bream mecca.

It might seem that I was not that happy in the picture which honestly I wasn't, not because I had only caught a slimy old brama but instead because I'd just seen the state of my net and knew the combination of all that snot and my nice hot car would make the journey home a little special. After the that I decided that if the bream were around Id be better off leaving it for tonight and so baited up the north swim and headed of whilst there was still some light in the sky.

Within twenty four hours I was back on the previously baited northern spot with the sun again blazing back up off the surface of the lake, probably irreparably damaging my retinas. I may have mentioned before that this year theres been a bit of a weed explosion on Coombe. In most places there is some kind of weed, be it patchy or dense. My spots that I have been repeatedly baiting are smooth as a tiled floor. The fish are obviously repeatedly coming in whenever there is fresh bait on and truffling around so much that no weed seems to be able to stick around very long.

Once again I topped up a with a reasonable helping of my special and favourite ground bait laden with casters and other goodies. Strangely I did no see a single sign of feeding fish anywhere along the patrol and certainly not where I was fishing. That was until my float did that happy little dance I am becoming addicted to seeing and I found myself playing another classical summer estate lake tench.

There were other fish around in the swim though; I know that because I saw the bow waves and disturbed water they caused as they exited the area. With one under my belt and a now vacant swim I decided to spend the few hours I had left checking out a new area one of the carp anglers I have become friendly with tipped me off about.

I know this chap very well as he too spends large proportions of time on the lake in the summer after the monster carp which seem to go uncaught for ever on this weird water. He told me that whilst fishing a margin spot that had been good to him in the past he was getting plagued by tench. I knew he wasn't in the swim as I walked past it earlier that evening so tonight seemed just right to see if anything was in that margin.

A quick look out through the over hanging tree proved a waste of time so I opted to just go for it and sneakily placed a couple of balls out with my pole cup before swinging a bait over the top. Truthfully I just wanted a sign that something was moving in the swim and so I waited for any kind of something to happen, and it did! And it certainly wasn't what I expected to see as I will explain next time...

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

The Lake #27 No one could resist.

I am but a man, and a fisherman at that! So it was never going to be long until I returned to the lake and to that tench spot where the fishes incessant circling has transferred from the water to my mind. Only twice had the sun risen and set set before I again found myself walking the path through the chest high grass down the the bank. It was still hot and humid even though the sun was dipping towards the ancient wood on the opposite bank. Only one other angler was on the bank and he wasn't fishing. I stopped and chatted to him for a while about the lake, or more importantly the excessive weed currently blooming, in which he was trying to locate holes to fish using a marker float set up.

With the bank deserted and silent I took the time to actually watch the water for a while before deciding where to fish. Undoubtedly there was fish all over the area and it took no time at all to spot signs that the resident tench were once again on patrol and feeding. In the end I decided to fish the southern most swim and my reason for this were purely down to the aesthetics of the swim.

Flat calm summer night, those lily pads and a slow sunset, that's just angler porn.
Everything was going to be the same bar one change, the rig! It might sound odd that even as happy as I was with the bold bites I have been getting from the tench using a small piece of quill, blob of tungsten putty and a size 8 hook set up lift float style, that I still felt a change could bring me even better fortune. You see the tench bites are so obvious it wouldn't matter what float I used. But the thought that maybe just maybe if I fished and baited one area long enough a rare crucian carp might happen along had crept into my head and this was the perfect night to fish a lighter rig as there was hardly a breath of wind.

It was Jeff and Keith (when Keith still fished) that extolled the virtue of this rig to me, and I think it was Phil Smith who advocated its use to them before that. But whatever the provenance it works amazingly well. The rig comprises a sensitive Drennan antenna float with the very last cocking shot positioned as close to the lake bed as possible and the last two inches of line to the hook on the bottom. By doing this it works just like a lift float and registers lifts and dips, both of which I strike at. With tench the float shoots right out of the water and with crucian it generally rises slowly up as the weight is taken off that last shot. In the water on this occasion with these conditions it was working brilliantly and looking a treat!

Only problem was that the sensitive presentation was working a bit too well and that combined with the increase of silver fish the lake seems to have going on at the moment meant I had a busy night. The hungry little mouths were up for anything no matter how big. I started off fishing double caster before quickly moving onto a grain of corn... them two grains of corn... then a red worm... then half a lob worm and finally a whole worm. It really didn't matter what I cast out in the end as they ate everything I chucked and truth be told I just couldn't get past the horde to try and catch a tench.

A few days later I was back on an impromptu session and the conditions though good had changed. The wind had picked up and the light set-up had no chance of working with the wind imparting some hardcore tow on the ninety acres of water. So back to the heavier lift float I went. The smaller fish were about and even in some pretty torrential down pours they stick their noses in quite a lot. It was as I took a moment to stretch my legs in a momentary break in the weather that I stood high above my swim against the trees and sighted random puffs of muddy water. The tench were certainly about it was just any normal signs were being masked by the heavy ripple cutting across my swim.

The fish seemed to be lingering off the edge of my baited area and as so often with fishing a small change in the location of my hook bait brought an instant reaction by way of a classical lift bite. Even in the heavy ripple I saw the two nervous twitches of the quill before the float sailed up lolling over to the right in the wind. 

The result was another big long female that battered around the shallow margin destroying the swim entirely. Though I didn't care one bit as catching yet another stunning Coombe Abbey tench was the perfect way to cap off what had been a bit of an arduous session which I spent sheltering under my new brolly hiding from what can only be described as some biblical showers.

I had to go back the morning after the night before. Having a fair about of bait left over and some unmixed bait stashed in my bag, I once again had deposited as much bait as access to back onto the areas I was fishing at the end of the session thinking the fish would undoubtedly be around come the dawn.

My prediction was right and upon arriving I crept up behind some cover and straight away spotted three tench within on feet of the bank. I truly thought I was going to be home by eight. How wrong was I! Even though they had certainly come back in overnight and were definitely sticking around with persistence they did not want to get their heads down at all. No fizzing no puffs of silt and defiantly no bites occurred a all. Not until the sun broke over the trees behind me. I thought it was going to be a wash out in truth as the sun normally hitting the water kills the fishing, but toady was different.

The moment those warming rays spread over the shallows the fizzing started. The only thing I could fathom was that the water had cooled with the previous days showers and the cool night had kept the temperature low. Then with the water being so shallow the suns rays penetrating it must have just sparked them back into action. 

I missed the first bite somehow and then the second one was a bit of a weird rising and sliding at the same time. I was only in contact with that fish very briefly and I suspect I'd actually foul hooked a passing fish. Happily though it seemed that the very slight commotion hadn't cleared the swim. A bit more baiting and waiting and finally I received a clean and definite bite. This fish went insane when the line tightened and luckily I had set the clutch light enough for a gudgeon to pull line off of it, because the first charge in made out towards the weed in the centre of the lake had me thinking I had a monster on. Of all the tench so far this one was fought the hardest and really made me think it would be my first male that I would find in the bottom of my landing net. Wrong again! it was probably the smallest one of this Coombe campaign so far but what she lacked in length she made up for in depth and sheer determination.

So my one-tench-a-session vibe continues as does my constant baiting of the spots for now. I know some people might question my willingness to keep bating the swims and repeatedly going back for single fish sessions and truthfully I have questioned it too. But every time I think about it I come back to the same conclusion that this is Coombe and I am putting good fish on the bank every session which as far as I can recall from my experience is unusual. So as the former terminator of California once said "I'll be back"

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

The Lake #26 Bookended tench.

I had watched them feed from quite close up only days ago so I knew where they were. For hours I studied the knocking lily pads and patches of fizz that rose as they perused morsels of the lake bed. At first it had all seemed to be the random movements of  multiple tench which I suspected were in the area. As always though time told, and after two dawns and two dusks when I was unable to fish for them but could watch them, I was able to decipher a definite patrol route. It wasn't a big patrol either considering the size of the lake. Starting at the north end of the little circuit they were making, the tench seemed to be moving in small groups along the shallow margin sending up puffs of coloured water as they did, till they arrived at the start of the lily pads. Immediately as they came to the lily's, the first three pads on the corner leaves would knock and signal their arrival. Then they seemed to move away from the shelter of the lily's and track along them about two feet out. As they came to the gap in the lily bed all noticeable evidence of their presence stopped until they again came along side the next jutting patch of pads. The next stretch of lily pads was the biggest on the route and most times the fish lingered here a while sending up tempting signs that they might be feeding beyond the covering of round leaves. Slowly the groups would move out and at the very last pad turn and come back into the margin where I could actually see them sometimes. After that they seemed to cut diagonally across to the nearest reed bed before moving out of sight only to reappear fizzing along maybe twice as far out as they had before. It took me a bit of careful plumbing up to figure that they were following a very slight marginal shelf back from the southernmost point of the patrol up to the north where they would begin all over again.

Three days it took me to put all that information together as it wasn't just one lot of fish moving around the route. I'd tried to count as best as I could but the most I'd seen within a small space of time was nine possible tench. Knowing where they were was only half the solution as they did seem to be feeding as they went, but judging by the lack of interest the two carp anglers had got in the days they were pitched up in front of the paroling fish with a margin rod each, these tench weren't into big baits at all.

I am sure JB noticed me drifting off into la la land pondering my move over the following few days, though if she did she was good enough to not mention my mooning. The biggest problem was the general shallowness of the areas in question. I had thought about targeting the slightly deeper back run they took to get back to the northern end. The problem here was that I had already discounted using even light bottom rigs as the random patches of weed sprouting from the bottom would only mean a line cutting through the swim somewhere and so a float rig seemed the better option. But the light float rig stood no chance being fished on the further line due to the excessive filamentous algae blowing up the lake which would destroy my patience very easily.

It had to be the close in line and it had to be one either end of the patrol that I would fish. That way if I did hook one I had at least half the water in front of me open so as I had some area so play the fish on the light tackle. As for bait it was to be a sparing affair. Corn struck me as a bit too obvious in the shallow water and maggots wouldn't linger on the bottom long enough to attract their attention. Casters though were light enough to sit on top of any silk weed and a little helping of pungent but unobtrusive ground bait, should lure them down.

Three days after leaving I was back again at first light. Just about the only thing moving on the bank was the bloated mosquitoes returning from their night raids on Bivvy's along the bank. The dawn chorus was under way and as I carefully took the short cut across the top of the giant rabbit warren on the slope down to the lake I did spy a couple of pars of long ears and the odd white tail before they shot back down some hidden hole. The lake was flat calm with wisps of mist rising off it but as yet no fish dappled the surface. Although I walked through many pegs I only stopped once to admire the cadged orchid that had popped out of it's chicken wire prison and now was beginning to flower freely above. 

I knew even if I saw something tempting as I tracked along under the trees that I wouldn't stop, as I only had one area in mind. One of the carp anglers still remained where he had pitched up seven days prior at the south end of the patrol route. The north was free and this was were I crept down to the bank. Not wanting to create to much of a disturbance I had brought my pole and pole cup along for some stealthy baiting. In the full light of day I wouldn't consider sticking an alien shadow over the shallow swim, but in the half light I knew it should go unseen. Three pots of fine uncompressed ground bait with a good helping of casters as well before I retreated back to the trees to watch and wait.

The rod was barely assembled when the first fizz broke the surface. With the baited spot on a clear gravel patch not two rod lengths out now undeniably occupied I tried my very best to quietly get as close to the only bit of cover available. There was no need to for plumbing as I had noted the various depths of the areas and so all I had to was slide the thin peacock quill two inches above the second ring of my rod. Now all I had to do was cast! The first cast went no where, it was as if something was hampering the line coming of the spool. Still trying to keep hidden checked the entire set-up only to find the line going around the rod at the join between the two sections. A quick twist and I was ready to try again. This time the pea sized ball of rig putty dragged the line and float just beyond the target clear patch and all I had to do was hold back whilst lifting the rod to get the bait spot on target.

Immediately the float was signalling all the right things from the bottom of the lake to the surface. Twice the float slid side ways as something slowly brushed against the line. Now I just needed to do was wait for that proper bite to occur whilst ignoring the multitude of knocks and taps. Then perfectly the float did a couple of nervous bobs before lifting up and falling to the side.
It was like a mine had gone of under my float! The water just seemed to grow in mass before a bow wave shot out from it. If that wasn't shocking enough the instant commotion caused several other fish to bolt out of the shallow water all heading in different directions. Any fish that finds itself hooked in little depth goes berserk and this tench was no different. It made four or more savage runs out towards the centre of the lake and me holding the rod low and trying to stop it reaching the weed beds just made it swirl on the top. For the sake of any fish I caught Id purposely brought a particularly long landing net along so as pulling capture into the inch deep edge could be avoided and soon enough I slipped my first lovely Coombe tench into my over extended net.

With all the disturbance I honestly thought not a single fish would still be patrolling and the sun was about to be the wrong side of the trees so it was unlikely I would get a second chance. So happy with my capture I resolved to leave it alone for the day, but not after rebating all along the patrol route with a return the following morning in mind.

The World Cup put pay to an early start so it was evening before I found myself marching back to the prebaited area. I knew all the bait would be long gone, but hopefully the fish would have committed the smell of it to memory. The bank was deserted with even the carp anglers seven day vigil over, so rather than go back to the swim at the north of the patrol I instead opted for the southern turn. Fishing here closer to the lily bed would enable me in the bright sun to again use the pole pot to bait up accurately using the cover of the pads to mask it looming over the swim.

Almost right on cue I spotted signs of movement further down the pads just as the sun began to drop towards the horizon sending shadows half way over the lake.  I didn't wait to for signs of feeding on this occasion as I wanted my bait in place before anything turned up to feed. The tench began fizzing right on cue about three feet along the lily line from my float and it was an agonising watching the patches of tiny bubble rising intermittently ever closer to my bait. Then once again my float rose from the water just after a massive fizz clouded around it. I never waited for a millisecond before lifting the rod swiftly up to my left in the vain hope it would head away from the snags. Heaven be praised, it went the right way and straight away I was up leaning out with the rod at full stretch trying to stop it heading round the corner. This fish did one massive hard run before turning round rolling on the top and coming to the bank like a aged bream. I thought at first maybe it was just a little fish that had gone mad until an open mouth and red eye appeared round the reeds  then I saw its fin and flank, but then it just kept on coming into sight. This was one of the longest tench I have ever seen and although the angle I was holding it at in this self take doesn't show it very well, it was as long as I am wide.

As with the session before, the commotion caused by hooking a fish in shallow water caused any others to disappear. Though this time they melted away rather than stampeded off like the last time and then I to like the fish packed up and melted away home. Right now I find myself satisfied by just catching just one decent fish at a time and given that every bite counts on this lake it kind of makes a little sense walking away after such a catch rather than hanging around wanting to catch a bag load and whining when it doesn't happen.

But before I left I once again deposited all the bait I had left along the patrol route knowing full and well it wouldn't be long before I was back again...