Thursday, 30 June 2016

The Lake #32 Not the best of starts.

Two winters, two springs and a summer have passed since I last fished Coombe. Though I haven't really had time to think about it, there were odd moments when my mind drifted back to it and I pondered what was going on over there. This year though I seem to be finding a bit of time and pre June 16th I surmised that a season ticket might be a viable option, although night fishing still feels to be a little out of synch with my life. A day season ticket though would enable me to spend some time on the bank and possibly enable me to catch the fish here or there.

If I have concluded one thing about this lake that is key over all else; success hangs simply on the knowledge of where the fish are. I've wasted many a random day turning up to the lake and going where I think there might be fish, rather than where I know there is fish. Bearing this in mind I have begun my efforts this year gently, snooping round the banks clad in green peeping through polarized eyes.

The first look on the private bank one Saturday afternoon was informative yet worrying. With the sun out and from a slightly elevated bank I could see right through the shallow water all across the lake and not many fish were seen at all, bar what I suspect was a group of three tench in a bay, drifting along in the late afternoon sun. I must say at this point that my mooching is being combined with a little surface lure fishing for the resident pike, and it would seem this might have some mileage as I raised two nervous follows and one wild attack from jacks that were lurking around bank side patches of weed.

Having seen little to whet my appetite on the first visit, a second reccy was to be on the public bank. This time I hoped that the dense lily beds might hold both information and pike. It's been a good while since I did the long walk, but as I stepped through the gate I remembered how evocative the path leading to the lake along the reed bed can be. Though the sight of it also reminds me how soul destroying it can be on the return journey after a blank.

In truth the first twenty pegs seemed as barren as ever. I did not spot so much a lingering perch in the vast weed beds and even as my weed free frog lures were working perfectly in amongst the pads, I couldn't locate any pike. I did however finally see signs of life further round the lake. From about forty meters out the water was being coloured up by what had to be feeding fish. The wind and ripple was pushing the coloured water into the lily pads and after watching for a good half an hour, I began to see the pads sending out ripples as hidden fish fed amongst them.

Happy from finally seeing a few feeding fish, I continued round the bank to a more open area where I fancied I might be able to have a go with some larger surface jerk baits I had just purchased and was desperate to use. I removed the plastic frog and huge worm hook from my trace and gleefully dug out a 24 gram mirror lure He dog from my lure box. A little flick out to see what it looked like in the water and to check it floated and I was ready to fire out half way across the lake.

I remember positioning the rod over my right shoulder and them pushing hard forward loading up the rod blank against the weight of the lure, then... CRACK! I actually felt the tension on the rod give and reactively closed my eyes waiting for something hit me, but nothing did and my eyes tracked along the rod to see the top eighteen inches hanging on the line above the lure. In the blink of an eye my one piece Shimano AX player had become a two piece rod, split unevenly between a four and a half foot butt section and the now swinging eighteen inch top section.

The break was a bit perplexing in truth. I've broken a few rods over the years: first was a float rod I was using as a ledger rod as a kid, that crunched much as you would expect cheap carbon too; years later a carp buckled over a fiberglass pole I was using, making a very similar sound to the first; the last was a barbel rod which I destroyed by wrapping round a tree after pulling for a break in a snag, although I can't remember the sound that made the end result was the same, splintered rod. This one though was different though! The crack was loud, very loud and the break as you can see was almost clean.

Whatever the result was my fishing for the session was cut very short, and after checking out last area which was devoid of life I began the long yet resplendent walk back to the car with a very perplexed look on my face and broken rod in hand.

The next day I popped back to the tackle shop that had supplied me with the rod to let them have a look at it. In their opinion it looks like there may have been some kind of fault in the blank that hasn't been picked up in manufacturing and in moving up to a much heavier lure than I have used before, the pressure has just been too much for the fault to take. So the broken rod is going back to Shimano and hopefully I might get a replacement soon.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Happy fishmas one and all.

I've had some pretty dire June 16ths in my time I can tell you. I try my very best to not work on this sacred day, I get all wound up like a chocolate crazed kid and charge off to the river or some venue where I've been unable to fish, with sky high expectations and in most cases it all ends being a bit of a letdown. This year I decided to not get all excited and instead of charging off to the river or something, that I would just go and fish somewhere I knew I would have a good time. Bucking the trend, I went to Napton thinking as it's been open all year it might be a bit quiet on the first day and I was right; only one other angler was in residence when I arrived.

Though I knew when I arrived that I would more than likely catch a net load of tincas, I half had it in my mind that today might be as good as any to actually have a shot at catching a crucian carp. A few days before I had witnessed Andy realize a dream and catch a cracking old fish that will stick in my head for a long time to come. 

The swim I chose was shallower than the ones I normally fish and after plumbing up and fine tuning the float to register even the shyest of bites, I committed and baited heavily alongside a reed bed using Green Bait-tech super G ground bait and fresh casters. As intended to use corn as hook baits I carefully flicked out a few grains over the bed of bait to get the fish used to looking for them, but kept the amount down so as fish would hopefully not have too much choice and struggle to find the one with a hook in it. 

Thankfully I had collected the repaired section of my fourteen foot power waggler rod from the kind chaps at Lanes who had got it repaired in time for the 16th. I knew this rod would be perfect for fishing this venue as it's got loads of low down power to help fight the hard fighting tench, whilst still being sensitive enough in the tip section to fish lighter float rigs.

I watched as the ground bait broke down, sending tiny bubbles up all over the area. Really, I expected the tench to get on it like white on rice but nothing occurred for the first half an hour. Then the game changed in a big way when a crucian rolled off the back of my bait. If my heart wasn't in my mouth enough then, when a second one rolled to the left of the patch my heart was literally in my mouth. They were here and if I was ever going to catch one it was going to be now. Then the float rose less than half an inch and I struck! The culprit was blatantly a tench which powered off quickly out into the lake before getting off in the blink of an eye.

One cast later the whole session became a blur... The next slight rise in the float was hit and this fish felt different, very different. After an initial dull resistance it began circling round for a short while before rolling on the top and that's when I saw a dark gold shape the size of a dinner plate. When that fish went in the net I could barely believe it. Less than week ago I was writing about how hard people have worked to catch these rare Napton Crucian carp; here I was on the first day of the season and my first fish of that season was a ancient crucian. I had to actually calm myself down to prevent myself flapping around whilst dealing with it, I was that excited. So after securing it safely in the net I engaged the other angler to help me photograph my prize. 

The fish looked very much like the fish I'd seen the previous week, apart from not being as high in the back. What it lacked in height this one made up for in thickness across the shoulders. It weighed 2.10lb but some checking of my scales later confirmed them to be weighing 1oz heavy for some reason, making the fish's actual weight 2.9lb. But really, I didn't care what it weighed as I genuinely felt honoured to have such an amazing fish be my first of the season.

I considered going home after I watched my first Napton Crucian swim away in the clear water but I knew no matter how rare they were, today I stood a chance of another. The very next cast the float settled down leaving the red tip showing as the corn nestled on the bottom. Just as I was about to reposition my net next to me, the float almost swayed rising slightly as it did. I struck into a second fish that wasn't a tench either and lo and behold, moments later a very young looking second crucian of two pounds was mine.

Now, I was flabbergasted to say the least. In the very short time I'd been fishing I landed two of these Napton ghosts and from the looks of the bubbles rising in my swim there was more action on the cards. I cast again almost trembling and the float never settled fully before sliding off. The tench had moved onto the bait in a big way and were so keen to feed they were intercepting baits on the way down. I caught nine tench over the next two hours and everyone battered me senseless, tearing line off the reel and repeatedly diving in the deep water.  

What a session to start a new season with! I was in pure heaven catching all these wonderful tench one after another on the lift float. Soon though all went quiet and there was a perplexing lull in the action. But it soon became clear why when the float rose preposterously high out of the water and my strike provoked a very large fish to bow wave out of the swim rather quickly. No tench, no matter how big, had this power and it confirmed its identity to be a carp when I attempted to slow it down before all the line went of my reel. In doing so the fish rose up onto the surface and came back towards me so quickly I could barely keep tension on the line. The battle under the rod tip was just way too much for my light hook link and the entire rig was soon wrappped around the tip of my rod.

This loss of the carp turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Thinking the carp had more than likely cleaned me out, I baited up again heavily with the rest of my ground bait and lashings of casters. I took my time to tie a new hook link and retune the depth of my un-baited rig in the hope it would allow the fish to move back onto the spot. Lo and behold when I was done and cast out I only waited moments before getting another tiny bite and connecting with a third old bar of Napton gold.

"Three...honestly three," I remember saying that to myself as I released the fish back into the clear water. But that wasn't it! Not ten minutes later I got exactly the same quivering rise on the float and number four was dancing around under my rod tip about to really top off the 16th of a life time. 

I feel sure the shoal of crucians had been lurking round the reeds all morning just waiting for the tench that had pushed them off to do one. But it was probably the carp coming in and panicking out of the swim that moved the tench on and allowed those shy old crucians to slip back in. The tench though weren't gone for long and a trio of bigger examples up six pounds finished off the morning for me.

That was without any doubt the greatest 16th and crucian session I have ever had in my life. I kind of feel foolish for how hard I have described the crucian fishing to be on Napton now. BUT! I also know this really was a case of being in the right place at the right time, doing the right thing. Had I been fishing one of my favoured pegs then I would have never been on them and had I been fishing a float rig that relies on the float going under, then maybe I would have never even struck at one of those bites. It's quite likely that it might be a few years before I get a second chance to catch any of these wonderful wild old crucians again if form rings true. So with a smile on my face still, all I can say is...

Happy fishmas one and all.

Friday, 17 June 2016

In honour of others joy.

At Napton reservoir there are those who fish for carp, those who fish for tench and then there are those who pretend to fish for tench but are really hoping for something much rarer. I think the reason that those of us who pretend to fish for tench but are really after something else persist with this ruse is simple; we would be categorized as mental by others or even think ourselves mad if we admitted we were after crucian carp. 

Napton is rife with tench no matter what anyone says; literally at times you would think the bottom was paved green. Once a friend of mine, Pete, said he fished 24hrs for them and literally caught something stupid like over a hundred fish. Conversely the crucian numbers in Napton could probably be counted on a single human's fingers and toes, which in a water of its size makes them the proverbial needle in a haystack. They are the ghosts of the lake as far as I am concerned and quite often their presence seems more rumour than truth. Over the years I've heard whispers on the bank that there is little more than fifteen of them in residence and no one seems to know when or if they were stocked. I even spoke to a chap well in his sixties who said he used to catch them when he first fished the lake as a young man. Things like this seem to indicate that this small group of crucians could be very old and if what I have read is true they are quite capable of living this long. How old they are aside, catching one of these ghosts takes time. Keith off of Warks Avon is quoted as saying it took him over forty years to catch one and look what it did to him...

 ...Considering how lucky he is catching target fish then that means we normal lucked folk are in for a long wait!

It had started as any normal Napton session would; arriving very early, struggling to get a level seat position and the wind blowing in my face. This time Andy had joined me and was set up down the bank. I actually ended up back in the swim I'd fished the week before with the ripple coming onto my own bank and even though the conditions were due to deteriorate throughout the morning, the fish it seemed were on the feed. 

The tench were having it and my score with the hard fighting red eyed demons of this lake was soon settled. By fishing my usual fine tackle over a bed of Bait-Tech super G ground bait laced with casters and corn, the float soon lifted. I don't know whether I'd forgotten how hard tench in general fight or whether these particular fish are a just hard fighters, but every one hooked certainly tested the gear to its limits and more in a few cases. Disappointingly the first fish I landed had some very severe damage to its mouth from either being tethered to a rig or being mistreated by some heartless angler who consider them trash fish. Either way the matter of how the tench are being treated by certain types of anglers fishing the lake will be raised next time I see an official from the new controlling club.

Although the rain came in soaking me to the bone, the tench sport just got better and better through the morning and fish of all sizes were continuously moving into the swim and rolling all around the area of the lake we were fishing. Some were old warriors and others, like this one, looked perfect as if they had never been caught before. Seeing these younger, cleaner examples seems to indicate new fish are coming through and the future of the Napton tench fishing looks good.

Somewhere in the rain the session changed in a big way when Andy breathlessly shrieked he had a crucian on. I shit you not, from down the bank I could see a grown man shaking as he repeatedly said "Please don't come off." When that net lifted around that bar of gold you'd have thought that Andy had just scored the winning try for England at the Rugby World Cup. I don't think I have ever seen him so happy with a capture and I have to say I was over the moon for him as it was the most stunning old creature I have ever laid eyes on.

It wasn't his biggest ever crucian but I think it was possibly the best he'd ever caught, and why shouldn't it be when he's been trying for ten years to catch one of these Napton Ghosts. All I can say it well done mate, you deserve it.

Really that should have been the perfect way to end this post, but I could not not include this string of shots I took of Andy releasing the fish back into the clear water, as it is simply the best group of photos I have ever taken, and what is shocking is that I used my camera phone to get them!

Off she goes.

Friday, 10 June 2016

Back on track.

Considering the hours of my life I've spent staring at a float I wouldn't of thought it possible to forget just how much I love float fishing. A year of chucking lures though seems to have gone some way to making me forget, but easing myself gently back into to fishing without any arduous walking sessions has steered me back to this forgotten loves arms.

First came a very brief session where, to just get out, I ventured down to the closest bit of canal with a single short float rod rigged with a simple pole float, to ply worms down the nearside track whilst just enjoying being out again.

With a handful of brutally chopped yet wonderfully oozing worms as a carpet to attract... well anything, I swung a single writhing worm delicately onto the spot and sat back and enjoyed fishing again. It felt at the time like I had missed an entire season of the year, as when I was in hospital weeks ago spring was still stuttering along and now the banks that lined the Oxford canal were thick with greenery and the blossom of the hawthorn peppered the hedgerows white. With cold nights becoming a distant memory the perch population at least had settled into voracious summer feeding habits as well.

Not a few minutes went by without the delicate float dipping here and there as the hordes of little striped predators tugged at the wriggling worm. Now and again greed got the better of them and the float would sink away as one tried to escape its brethren with worm. Quite quickly I was amassing a respectable tally of pint sized predators and any passing match angler might have appreciated the session, seeing me plunder the normally frugal cut.

If I know one thing about fishing this method for perch it's that they generally get bigger as time progresses and it was exactly so on this occasion. After every deposit of feed the size of fish landed increased. The slew of fingerlings made way to a few hand sized fish, you know the ones that aren't quite big enough to dip the net for but put a worrying bend in the tip of your rod. Then as the bites slowed the bigger crew showed up and at close to a pound the net has to get deployed. When those fish disappear and the float holds fast above the film of the water you know there's a good chance a rouge monster is on the cards. When that bite came the little rod bent right round and a proper perch smashed round the canal furious at the price of it's free meal.

A couple of hours, a mess of small perch, a handful of bonus pounders to ice the session and a monster mother as the cherry on the top and I was done. It was the perfect way to get out fishing again and once again light the fire of my float fishing love.

With my mind still focused on the float I mulled over my next session, but it was news of change that led me to my next venue. I love Napton reservoir and when I stood freezing in the winter wind casting lures into it I dreamt of summer tench fishing there. Recently though things have changed and Coventry Angling Associations strangle hold on it has yielded and the news that Leamington Angling had obtained the rights to fish it emerged. 

Now I will put it out there that I am yet to be convinced of whether this is a good or bad thing. On one hand Leamington really look after their venues and I have the utmost respect for this. BUT! They also have a habit of interfering with their waters in ways to make them a bit more... financially viable. I watched with trepidation as they turned Ryton pool from a wonderful wild tench water into a mini carp water with the random stocking of some questionable carp. Also they have a naughty habit of after a few years starting to ask for a small day ticket fee on top of the club membership under the guise of "restocking", which in reality seems to be a way to fill their already swollen coffers. All that aside, I want to fish Napton so a membership has been purchased to enable this to continue in the future.

If you've ever fished Napton you know it takes more time to get your seat level on those rocky banks than it does to set up all the rest of your gear set up and after settling down on the causeway facing out into the big half of the lake, I finally began the complex dotting down of my Drennan glow tip antenna float. I love to fish these floats with the last shot just off the bottom and it can be difficult to get it set just right so as when a fish bites the float works in both as a normal float would, going under, and as a lift float, which rises when a fish lifts that last shot. It's worth it though for the added sensitivity and on this occasion it proved a brilliant choice.

The tench and fish as a whole were being particularly shy and with eight other anglers up and down the bank from me literally I was the only one striking at fish. Most of the strikes came to very little but every now and again I connected with a nice perch in deep water, some of which were getting on for two pounds. Frankly where these perch were when I was lure chucking in the winter is a mystery, but show them a few casters and they were well up for it.

It wasn't the perch I was really after and in the end I struck into a solid fish which made me look a royal prat by charging straight into the only small reed bed nearby and getting away with a deft flick of its tail. I had to work very hard feeding small balls of ground bait and regular pouches of casters over the top to get my second swing at old red eye. After hitting a tiny rise on the float this one headed out into the lake like a flipping marlin, stripping line off the reel. A few changes in direction later and that one was off too. Sadly this can be the problem when fishing small hooks with tiny baits for powerful fish.

Looking back though I don't think the rod I was using helped me at all. Wanting a bit of back bone I'd dusted off my John Wilson Avon rod, but being as soft as it is and only eleven foot long it bounced around all over the shop in the brief tussles and didn't feel great at all. It was enough to send me grubbing around in some unused rods to find a fourteen foot power match I've got that needs a little repair, for future sessions when I will be back to settle the score with the green buggers in Napton Reservoir.