Friday, 8 December 2017

Back at that itch once again.

What is there to blog about the lower Itchen fishery that hasn't already been blogged? It is almost a right of passage for any Midland blogger to make pilgrimage there, as we come from one of the places in the UK with no genuine access to grayling. Go west into Wales and there's grayling, go North and there's grayling and if you go South and there shit loads of grayling. So I suppose it makes sense that those of us from the grayling void would want to go to the best place to catch a grayling and thus fly South in the winter to do so.

Not wanting to recount exactly blow for blow such an epic voyage I think this time the pictures will have to recount  much of this trip as not only do I not want to bore any readers with every tiny detail, but also I can barely remember everything as the day was so busy. Needless to say it began with an awfully early start in Coventry when I awoke prior to my alarm going off at four am and looked out of my window to see a light scattering of snow dusting my street. This winter theme was to dominate the day ahead. After thawing the car and making the trip over to my companion for the day, Mick's, house we whizzed through the traffic to arrive at the river not that long after the sun came up.

As both myself and Mick were of the same mindset to make as much of our day as possible we both agreed that we would please ourselves on this session and just link up for a spot of lunch around midday when Mick had promised a steaming hot lunch to power us through the day.
Being as it was freezing and that truthfully I quickly get bored of it, I opted to begin by trotting on the upper reaches to get the monkey off my back and bag a grayling on the float before pulling out my favoured feeder gear and smashing the place to bits.

First blood on the pin was beautiful grayling from a side stream.
Next bite came of course from a trout, albeit a good one.

After an hour trotting a few winding swims I finally worked my way down to an area I really fancied chucking feeders full of maggots into. Having already caught fifteen or more grayling up to a pound and a half I hoped to possible winkle out some of the other coarse species in a deep bend. So I put away the float gear and got on with the vulgarity of plying copious amounts of maggots into this sacred water. After relentless amounts of small grayling the trout arrived, though their identities as always confuse me.

Brown trout?
Sea trout?
Mick eventually passed by wrapped up against the freezing wind and much to his credit continued successfully trotting plenty of fish out of swims which I can honestly say I would have passed by, thinking them too shallow to fish.

With lunch time approaching and having caught an entire lifetimes worth of small grayling I opted to move back upstream towards the car and lunch. On the way down I had spotted an interesting looking side stream that entered the main river I quite liked the look of. The straight deep run directly above the junction looked prime for possible dace action so I ditched all but my float rod at the car and crossed a rather rickety bridge to access the run... my effort was rewarded...

My best grayling of the day at 1.10lb
Mick lived up to his promise and around lunch time the scent of frying onions began to drift over the fields through the chilly wind towards me. Sadly at the time this delectable scent was reaching my nostrils I was engaged in trying to untangle the line from the back of my centre pin after I had foolishly not engaged the ratchet having caught a fish. Ultimately the line was ruined and the bloody ratchet system collapsed and ended my trotting for the day.

A wonderful sight for a cold and hungry angler after a mornings fishing.
My afternoons plan was simple. Drop right down river to target a swim I have fished every visit to try and catch a decent chub or even a big roach which inhabit the lower reaches of the fishery. Luckily Mick had something similar in mind and so after loading up the car we made the savage journey down the heavily rutted road towards the weir at the bottom of the stretch to get as much fishing in as we could before the light went in a few hours time.

As per normal the maggot feeder drew copious amount of small grayling onto the line I was casting on and I hoped that all the action would sooner or later get the attention of the chub. In the end all I could catch was grayling all afternoon right up until my maggots ran out and I switched to the bread feeder with a pinch of flake as bait. My first cast and the tip wrenched round and I was attached to something good...

A rather fresh sea trout, I think?
The dark was soon upon us and after trying for so long I held out well on into dark for the rod to show any signs the chub might be about. Not long before I had to be packing up I detected a slight nod of the white rod tip in the dark. Moments later I was hooked into a very hard fighting fish which kept low in the water. After a hard fight unable to see anything the fish eventually came to the surface and a big set of white rubbery lips could be seen at the end of my net.

4.10lb of mint Itchen gold
Not long after I landed it Mick turned up and helped me take picture in the dark using an amazingly bright light. Happy with my last cast chub, we packed up and headed off to the local pub for some warmth, a drink and well deserved meal.

Friday, 24 November 2017

Have a kipper on me.

The heady summer days chasing tench and crucians at Napton reservoir seem a distant memory now and along with them the worry of obtaining a decent position has faded. With autumn just about gone the banks now become deserted and the waterfowl grow in numbers. Not many anglers other than those seeking pike bother now the colder temperatures are here but for me the idea of big roach draws me back.

The entire drive there I thought of big silver flanks and blood red fins. This summers fishing and the occasional capture of a big roach has burnt the idea into my mind. I can't exactly remember who it was that said a big perch is the biggest of fish, but in my mind a big roach is the biggest of fish. Maybe that's because we see so many small roach that when you actually see a big roach first hand something in your mind kind of questions if it's the same species, because roach don't grow that big do they! I know the specimen weight of a roach is supposedly 2lb and therefore that becomes a marker of a big roach, but I believe that at 1lb that's when a roach is a big roach; I don't think many anglers will disagree that when you see a roach of that size attached to your line you suddenly become a lot more careful about landing it.

As I rounded the corner and the car park came into view I was stunned out of silver dreaming by the sight of a car park full of cars. Either a long-billed Dowitcher had turned up and the lake was lined with rampant twitchers or something fishy was going down. It turned out to be the latter and the club were stocking a batch of fresh carp into the lake to renew the dwindling population. I can't deny winding up the committee members up a bit as I pulled up by asking if it was a fresh batch of crucians? To which their answer was it was the afore mentioned carp. My final comment though seemed possibly a step too far when I proclaimed "ah, otter feeding day is it?" to which the only reply was angry glares...

Looking out over the water, the lush green rushes had faded to brown and although the water temperature had to have dropped the lush summer weed still seemed ever present in the larger lake. Curiosity drove me to have a quick chuck around with a lead in the bigger lake to confirm that yes, even out over forty yards it was still too weedy to fish how I wanted to. So I set up on the popular corner peg at the end of the bridge to fish out in the small square lake. After picking a nice spot an easy cast out, I loaded a large feeder loosely with ground bait and maggots to cast out by way of attraction. Even the mini spomb I like to use would deposit too much bait to locally for my liking. On my last attempt at this I felt I totally over cooked the swim with bait before I started fishing. Ten feeder loads of freebies deposited later I was cast out on the spot and watching the water.

Bar the few hundred water birds on the big lake and the newly released carp bashing around, all was pretty quiet. I stood on the bridge watching the grebe hunt hoping to see it catch something right until it passed under me and the bridge and popped up back in the big lake. That's when I spotted another angler over the water. Interestingly, he was seemingly casting a fly as I could see the line lifting off the water. From afar I saw him land a small pike and release it before moving on. 

Trying to keep active and the bait fresh, I concluded to recast every twenty minutes to make sure there was always bait around my hook bait. Quickly I got into a rhythm and every recast was hitting clip and dropping in a very tight area. There was one fly in my ointment though; every time I reeled in I saw a pike come up and chase my feeders in. The pike angler in me even slowed the feeder up once just to incite the take which it did and my feeder was duly ripped off my line to be spat out in disgust later.

That pike quickly went from amusing to worrying as I was fishing for a single bite so far and if I got any sort of fish on, never mind a big roach, they were done for with this pike around. Though I had a rod that would have done the job I was lacking traces and lures to try and get it out and moved on. When I saw the pike angler approaching me I quickly reeled in both rods and recruited the chap, who seemed to be Scandinavian of origin, to try and hook the offending pike.

I reckon he thought I was pulling his chain when I explained and offered up my swim for plundering, but he eventually began working a giant gaudy tinsel filled fly back and forth through the air, pulling off line as he did, until the line flew out and landed gently on the water with the fly some thirty feet out. The first retrieve raised nothing, but on the second cast we both saw the mottled back of a pike follow the fly before slashing and missing it. After shooting me a smile he was casting again this time towards the direction the pike had turned off. Once again the pike grabbed the fly and spat it out before the hooks bit home. Both our hearts were going after that, but I think we both knew it would have another go... and it did! This time though the rod bent over hard as the pike struck and there was no missing that hit! I originally only thought it was a oversized jack pike until it twisted flashing its flanks in the deep water and I knew it was a double. Then the net went under it and it looked much bigger. On the mat unhooked it was three times the fish I originally thought it was and my new Scandi friend was thrilled when the scales went over fifteen pounds.

It was released well away from my swim and I have to say I got just as much enjoyment putting this chap onto the fish and watching him catching it as I would of myself. 
The excitement over, I got the rods back out and got back into my rhythm. As the light drew in my silent alarms sprang into life. As I suspected might be the case, the fish came on the feed at the end of the day as is often the case in the colder months. Mere minutes after every cast the bobbins would begin to dance and the purple led lights of my buzzers would flicker on. I have to say these bites were near impossible to hit and an hour of hard work into dark yielded little more than a string on small perch. I had hoped that even if I did not actually catch one of the large roach that reside in Napton, that they might help me out by rolling as dark fell. Even such a tiny morsel as a few decent fish rolling might have at least contributed a tiny piece to this puzzle. I watched both lakes right up until I could barely see the water through the dark and not one sign of fish was forth coming.

I now find myself in that difficult situation where the challenge of a campaign to catch a big Napton roach is as attractive as ever, but common sense tells me such an endeavor would mean spending lot of time and blank sessions chasing after a hard to win prize when there are so many other species I want to get after over the winter months.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Sassy sargents and river crocs.

Being on a new stretch of the Warks Avon this year has been amazing so far. So many of my angling buddies recommended this club to me the over past few years, only for me to never follow their advice and truthfully I could kick myself for waiting so long to get on it. The Barbel fishing when the conditions have been right has been amazing and the few chub I've caught has me almost willing the freezing winter upon us. It's the predators I have on my mind right now, specifically the question of whether there are any big perch lingering around in the slacks of the weirs or quiet backwaters.

So the other day I headed off into a freezing morning to fish lobworms in the deep waters I hoped might hold a big perch or two. Overnight rain made me hedge my bets and take along some stinky flavored meat to fish on a barbel rod as well, just in case. After a quick cast on a deep swim on the way up to weir to see if a big old chub might be tempted to take a single offering which I rolled into a snaggy hidy hole, I went off to my main target area, the weir at the top of the stretch.

Surprisingly although I have chucked all sorts of lures into this weir I have never actually caught a single perch so far. The lobworms I had brought along though I felt sure would root out something with stripes and whilst doing that I planned to put out a big smelly bait right into the head of the weir thinking maybe a chub, barbel or even carp might find it.

The perch weren't hard to find and not long after casting the split worm hook bait into an eddy over the other side the rod tip started to rattle as small perch homed in on the bait. At least ten small perch grabbed the bait and got hooked before finally a bigger example of 1.6lb found the worm to tempting and pulled the rod tip right over.

The meat rod did one single bite all morning, which was a sitter of a bite I still can't quite believe I didn't hook up on. I am not a massive fan of upstream ledgering and I think that went against me in this case. I know you're technically meant to wait for a drop back of the rod tip. On this occasion, the rod tip jerked forward and for a moment I hesitated to hit the bite and in doing so missed it. 

Once the sun really got up into the sky the perch bites justs dried up. I had anticipated this might happen and already had plan B ready to go by way of a bag of dead baits in my rucksack. Soon enough I made my way back down towards the backwater which was almost static and looked certain to hold some predators like pike and hopefully perch.

With the banks lined with cover the swim I decided to fish had to hold a few predators and after a mooch around, I soon found a croc holding motionless near some snags...

I couldn't find any perch at all in this deeper static water, but the pike were like buses and after waiting for a little over twenty minutes, two came along one after another. The first was a small jack of maybe three pounds which I left in the net waiting for a picture whilst I recast another roach dead bait into the far margin. As I was setting up the camera the rod was away again and bigger and much more spritely pike ripped around the swim. With no choice but to try and net the fish with a fish already in the net, I went for it. The first pike though was having none of it and shot out of the net at the first opportunity and denied me a brace shot.

The next and final pike encounter of the session came as I searched the cover for a perch. After covering every bit of cover or snag in the entire swim with a popped up lobworm bait, I finally cast it to the last bit of cover on the right-hand side of my own bank. I'd barely had time to tighten down onto the lead before the rod whacked over. Lord above I wanted it to be a perch as it felt big, but I suspected I was into a chub. That was until it powerfully surged off just like a pike and I realised this was going to be one of those fights that might end badly for me with me four-pound line. I did my very best letting the fish get away with anything it wanted on a lightly set clutch. Ultimately it was on a matter of time before the fish inevitably turned onto that light line with its sharp teeth, which it did leaving my line flowing in the wind and me packing up to go home.

Friday, 3 November 2017

Pure and utter filth.

I don't consider myself a purist angler exactly but I do sympathize with those sort of beliefs if you will. For example, I consider trotting for roach with maggots using a centre pin to be a purist pastime, as is float fishing for crucians or feeder fishing for bream on the Broads. On the other hand I am open to the idea of chub in lakes or fly fishing for dace maybe. There are a few places I think wrong to go and frankly barbel in still waters is not quite right, they belong in rivers, right! And actively targeting them, well, that's just a plain old filthy pastime.

So it was with trepidation that I donned a dirty old man mack and headed out to actually chase after still water barbel the other day. Really I should explain that I was at a bit of a loose end as I had neither the time or means to do anything else. Add to that the temptation to try and stick some points in what, on this seasons challenge sheet, is a virgin category all round.

I could not however go to a commercial just to try and snag a dirty barbel and so concluded to try and catch two species on this trip by going after an oversized gonk as well. Donkey's years ago when I frequented these places more than I'd like to admit, I caught several massive gudgeon from the diminutive Paddock pool on phase two of the then Makin's fishery. So I figured if some of them were still about then a couple of hours of maggots bashing should turn one up and help me tick another challenge box.

As these things always seem to go, the gudgeon hunt proved rather productively unsuccessful. From the off I was on the fish, casting a small clear waggler tight to the island that divides this match orientated pool. The only problem was that all that seemed to be taking the bait was small perch. At first I thought it would just be a numbers game but after two hours I had caught nothing but perch, perch and more perch.

With my initial endeavor seeming a fruitless task, I concluded to move on to worse of pastimes and headed over to another pool on the complex which is reputed to hold barbel into near monstrous proportions.

As a child of the 80's and an avid A-Team fan, I of course had a cunning yet outlandish plan to catch the afore mention bab and of course once my plan came together I would celebrate thus so chuffing on a cigar whilst  grinning and proclaiming my love of a plan coming together. This plan though involved the use of some nuclear power spicy garlic flavouring which stank up not only my hands but bag, car and kitchen much to JB's chagrin.

The second part of my session was a scaled up mirror of the first. My cunning plan worked and the ground up free offerings basically attracted ninety percent of the pools fish population to the two foot square patch where I'd thrown it. Three hours fishing yielded a string of carp which one after another came zombie-like towards my hook bait, mindlessly munching. At 3-7lb I reckon I could've won myself a qualifying spot at Fishomaina with what I caught, not to mention what I lost. The fuss I was causing dragging these stupid cyprinids out and cursing them like a nutter whilst shaking my fist at the pool must have made quite the sight for the two chaps over the other side, who were practising for the following days match and who were scratching around for bits.

With little time for a change of tack I was left with no choice but to run out my plan hoping the next fish that found the bait was a barbel. But no, one after another the carp came and scoffed! Some of them weren't bad looking fish either, but none of them were what I had come for.

Ultimately this venture returned a theoretical blank even though I went home stinking of fish and garlic. Sadly I don't think I will be entering any points in that illusive still water barbel box as this was the one and only time I was willing to commit anything towards trying to earn those dirty points. Next I will be getting back after some more honourable points by way of an autumn river perch or big old estate lake pike or something much more respectable.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Let the predators flow.

I am not a massive fan of catch up blogs, largely because I tend to forget the ins and out of sessions if I don't write them up quick enough, but this catch up blog I feel is a necessity to get me back into the swing of things and to fill in what I've been up whilst I've been busy over the last few weeks, even if it is a little abbreviated  in places.

A while back and I mean a good while back, I fancied a spot of lure fishing on the Avon to try a root out a few more of the relatively ignored zander on the deep wooded section of one of my club books.

After a visit to the local lure purveyor, Dave, at Specimen Fishing UK I was tooled up with some nice new rubber which I suspected might incline those much neglected predators to attack.

The zander on this occasion were not exactly crawling up the lines, but the jack pike were more than obliging to shoot out of the bank-side cover and attack the lures as they rose out of the depths and tear the living hell out of them.

I did however manage to scratch one small, if rather sorry looking zedlet in the morning, which took a liking to my Berkley Havoc beat shad which I was bouncing along the bottom. Judgment is out on what happened to that little fellows fin. Personally I reckon it had a lucky escape in its youth.

Apart from that little warrior the rest of that session was just lots of casting, lost lures and tiny stripling pike, which the entire stretch seems to be infested with.


Next outing I had myself a little wasping practice for the CRT international lure challenge I was meant to be attending a few weeks later on the Gloucester and Sharpness ship canal. Sadly I ultimately couldn't make the event due to other commitments, but the wasp fishing was certainly an interesting distraction. I have never actually measured the fish I catch as is the norm in these competitions. Happily though I was pleased that in a little over four hours I put together over two meters of small perch, or wasps as they are called in light lure fishing circles, along with a few micro zeds all by working a super light drop shot rig along the nearside bank.

One interesting thing I did discover by doing this was that not all areas of the canal are equal. By that I mean that the fish populations seemed to be grouped tightly in areas. After working a good mile or so of tow path it was plainly obvious that there were definitely hot spots where multiple fish were caught and in between these hotspots were large swathes of canal seemingly devoid of these little fish. Certainly I reckon I might incorporate this method of locating fish into my zander fishing in the off season, with the theory that the bigger predators might well be near these hot spots.


Earlier on in the year I put together a pair of rods and reels to target the roach on maggot feeders at Napton and after holding off as long as I could for the colder weather to arrive, I finally got out with my new roach outfits to have a go for a big old slab of silver.

Seemingly I didn't wait long enough though, as in this unseasonably warm weather we are experiencing I caught nothing but small tench which were hell bent on feeding up for their long dormant period over the winter. A few more weeks and a couple of frosts and I will give this endeavor another run out as I am sure some special silvers will be on offer once the temperatures drop


Although not fishing related, somewhere during this very busy period in between work and fishing sessions I even managed to take the Doctor to comic con!


My next opportunity to get out found me once again wandering the banks of Napton reservoir. This time I was out with the surface lures for a spot of excitement with the pike. Weirdly the area where I expected most of the attacks to come from was out of action due to the level of the water being two feet down on normal levels and there being no water above the dense weed to fish. But after working most of the weedy large half of the venue I did land three tiny pike and one better very dark fish, along with numerous pant wetting follows that came to nothing.

After putting the surface lures away I grabbed a dropshot rod from the car and embarked on a second session of the day. Throughout the afternoon I'd been wondering why I hadn't had any follows from any perch, in fact I hadn't seen hide nor hair of a stripy. I soon discovered on my first put in that the perch were shoaled very tightly next to any kind of cover. My first and only spot on the concrete pumping station on the small lake was rife with perch at all depths. Literally as the small chartreuse crappy thumper lure I chose to use dropped quickly to the bottom I could feel the fish grabbing at it. The two hours leading into dusk were some of the most insane fishing I have had fishing light lures full stop. Averaging around six ounces the perch came one after another constantly until I got to the point where I was looking at the time thinking I should have been away long ago.


Finally I visited the quiet, much ignored section of the Warks Avon again in search of zander. Myself and Mick off of Piscatorial Quagswagging have both had some surprising results over the warmer months catching zander in even the clearest water in this super deep section. Literally I've had a zander every time I have lure fished it. The question I found myself asking though was; are those zeds that are taking the lures just laying up on the bottom in that deep water and being spurred into action by the lures passing by or are they actively moving around hunting? To answer this question I figured a session fishing ledgered deads would clear up the matter somewhat.

The zander captures for my part have all come in very specific section and it wasn't hard to figure this the best place to start. With a relatively mobile approach I began towards the bottom of the target area. Mick was also fishing the same bit of river with the lures and I intended to keep in contact with him in case he located a zander before me.

Early on I got a run in the first swim which to both me and Mick who was present at the time seemed like a zander run. But even after letting the fish run and holding off the strike for far longer than I liked I didn't connect with the fish. I held out for a while in that swim before itchy feet had me moving off to a swim in the centre of the target area.

This swim produced nothing for ages until just before I was about to leave when a pike picked up one of the dead roach baits and screamed off in a way distinctly different from the first run.

I actually moved immediately after this fish was released to my final swim at the top of the target area. I was a bit reluctant to fish this swim as it just seemed a bit lifeless to me whereas the other two swims were buzzing with bait fish. I sat it out though and about half an hour before I had to away the downstream rod bleeped into life with another tentative run. Again though giving the culprit time enough to engulf the bait proved fruitless as my strike came to nothing.

Really I don't want to pass judgment with this single dead bait session as evidence, but honestly I think I am right in saying that lure fishing for these zander seems to get them interested even if they're just dormant on the bottom and the dead baits are probably best saved until the river is coloured and the zander are actively hunting. The reason I say this is that even if those couple of slow twitchy runs were off zander they obviously weren't being aggressive enough to actually get the bait in their mouths. So it seems like barbel fishing on the Avon, fishing for these zander is just a case of doing it when the conditions are optimal and at least I have a good idea where they will be.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Dual purpose fishing.

So far this season I have made very efficient use of my time I think. Not only do my captures reflect as much but my standing in the current fishing challenge does as well. In the latter case I find myself slipstreaming the leading group with an eye to challenge the top three over the colder months when the sport moves towards advantageous species for me. And considering I can't get out fishing nearly as much as the people ahead of me, then I think I am doing well really.

Retaining this efficient vibe I needed to do some reccy work on a section of the Warks Avon that I'd specifically joined a club to fish, and what better way of clocking out a venue than to actually lure fish it, which I was itching to get back at anyway. You see a lot of people just see lure fishing as a great way to catch predatory fish, which it is... But I like to treat it as leading around (as carp anglers do) as well as trying to catch predators. I've said this before but it's worth saying again that you can figure out loads of information about a venue by slinging out lures; by throwing jigs depth, type of bottom, weed bed location and snags are all discovered. Whilst throwing lures around I always keep my eyes open for fishy activity and this not only helps locate predators but other target fish too.

I actually went to this section of river to have a lure session very early in the summer but on that occasion the temperature was so high that it felt like I was in a sauna outside. On that occasion I abandoned my attempts to fish that section and instead sought the deep shade of a lower section where I found a few jack pike lingering amongst the summer rushes, and filled my brain with information about the section that has produced some nice barbel last month for me.

On this session the summer seemed a distant memory with heavily over cast skies and impending rain soon to arrive. The river though looked slightly coloured in the deep weir pool I began on. Looking into the margins revealed the truth though, that the Avon's waters were very clear indeed with three or four feet of visibility. I felt sure this would actually work in my favour so as any predators couldn't fail to see my lures. I began by targeting the slower parts of the weir pool using a natural coloured shad style baits on a ten gram jig heads to send it quickly down to the bottom. Quickly I was building a picture in my mind of where the gravelly areas were and location of any snags. My first bit of interest came when I bounced the lure through a large eddy on the opposite side of the weir and the rod buckled over as something snatched the falling lure. It felt like a very good fish as it kept low down in the foaming water. Unfortunately the hook let go of its hold as the fish fought away on the depths. As the line fell slack and reeled to get back control the lure the fish actually hit it again shaking its head before letting go again. An inspection of the rubber lure showed slashes along its side which more than likely meant a nice pike had just got away.

After moving above the weir I concluded to actually walk along the stretch as far as I felt I could before working my way back down fishing alternative pegs as I went. I like to do this as when I cast lures on these pegged out sections of water as I find myself casting quite far upstream and downstream, therefore large areas of water get covered from adjoining swims and because of it being a big stretch of water I can cover more water than if I was fishing every swim. Saying all this though, if there's something that perks my interest I will just go into that swim and fish anyway. Which was exactly the case with the swim I began in.

How could I resist a close to fifty foot long stretch of willows hanging right out over the water. From what it looked like the water under them was deep, dark and the perfect resting or ambush point. The lure went in and dropped easily fifteen feet on a soft bottom. I systematically worked the lure back before firing it back close to the overhanging leaves. I'd covered maybe a third of the feature when I got hit hard as the lure crossed the centre of the river. I don't know if the fish had followed the lure out of the cover or if it had crossed its path in the main flow, but whichever way, it wanted it and was now connected to my rod. It shot down stream as I reeled down on it and tried to keep it from diving straight into the pads in the margins of my bank. The fish did get into those weeds but softening autumn weed and braid aren't good bedfellows and soon the round pads were off downstream and I had a nice looking zander bundled into my net.

The colouration of the fish indicated the light was getting down to the bottom but surprisingly they were still up for a feed. Maybe the depth was a factor here and it inclines them to feed even though the water was clear. This definitely seemed the case when I got a second hit from further down in the same swim. This one though got off from either a bad hook set or maybe it just let go. A few swims later the same thing happened, I got a hard thump and a quick head shake before the fish was gone. I am sure both lost fish were zander that had grabbed the lure beyond the hook and I was also sure that all the fish were picked up as the lure crossed their path mid river where I suspect they might have been laying on the bottom.

I had to work through what seemed like a prime area as I went down stream. It had cover on both banks and lots of pads and weed in the margins to conceal any predators. Honestly I thought it was going to be pike city but it turned out to be pretty barren no matter what lures I threw at it. Things didn't change until I moved into a section with a long clean cut reed bed along the opposite bank. Here the river dropped off at the bank into ten feet of water and once again this depth seemed to be a factor as straight away I hooked another zander lingering around the middle of the river. This was smaller than the first one I landed but still fought hard and was reluctant to come up and when it did just gave up rolling into the net.

The pike though were conspicuous by their absence on this session and it wasn't until the river started to shallow up towards the weir that a tiny one shot out and grabbed my falling lure. Though very cleanly hooked, this miniature monster bit the tail off of a brand new that I'd only cast once. Having unhooked it the tail of the lure was hooked up in though band new needle-like teeth. I only tugged at it gently and the tail of the shad was gone, leaving me with useless rubber ornament on my hook.

The river and my time soon ran out and I left it alone not long after that little pike swam away. I did give the weir one last go and covered the water where I'd lost that big fish first thing but that was no avail. I had been a good session on both the fish and the reccy front. I'd figured quite decent overview of the depth of the stretch, I'd found some interesting features in which to target later in the year and also got a few hints that there could be a very good population of good averaged sized zander in the area which I will definitely be targeting once the water is up and coloured and their after an easy meal.

Friday, 1 September 2017

Desperately seeking crucians.

With a title such as that you'd be forgiven for thinking I was in serious need of landing a lovely golden crucian carp. Well, I am and I am not, if that makes any sense. Really with where I live and the waters available to me, I could without shadow of a doubt go out and catch myself a crucian pretty easily, but the truth is that I only have eyes for one sort of crucian and it just happens that those are the hardest sort to catch round these parts as they are basically few and far between.

You see all crucians are not created equal... in my eyes anyway. In his well regarded crucian bible, 'A crock of gold: seeking the crucian carp', Peter Rolfe describes two distinct shapes of crucian carp; one, long and shallow which grows up in a relatively predator free environment and thus survival is not dependant on shape; the other, a classical round shaped crucian variant, that natural selection has determined due to its depth being to great too fit in the predatory perches mouth. The narrow variant is available commonly around the Midlands in quite a few pools including Snitterfield reservoir, which boasts an old population such as the one below and a whole new generation which was stocked few years ago to cement the reservoir as a top crucian venue for years to come.

The more rarer and archetypal variant though is much harder to find no matter where you come from. It is this disc-like crucian that I really wanted to catch this year, as a long time quest to actually catch just one of these special fish from Napton reservoir came to fruition and I landed four in one session last year. I honestly thought having finally done the impossible I might have satiated the urge, but the reality is that catching some has only made my need to catch them even worse. This picture alone has seen me return time and time again this year just for a chance to catch one more.

I have purposely kept away from blogging about the numerous failures to catch one of those golden pixies time and time again, as frankly I would have got very boring by now. Literally, I have spent half of my fishing time sitting on the banks of Napton mornings and evenings watching and waiting. I've spent so much time on there that I can tell some of the ducks apart merely by their demeanour. I've spent so much time sitting in silence that I've noticed that not only does Napton have a very shy population of water voles, but its stony margins are also home to bullheads which dart in and out of the rocks. As I've sat quietly waiting for my float to dip or rise so much as a millimeter I've seen plenty of Napton sunsets and now have developed a very keen appreciation for a good tench roll.

One thing I can say is the pest captures over the summer have really been great. Napton has so much more to offer than I ever thought in the past. The fish I've seen these last few months have honestly blown my mind. So much so in fact that I am already planning to have few sessions back on the venue once the weather cools a bit and the summer species go off the boil. Roach will be the target and why not when I've already caught fish to 1.10lb and pound fish have become very common. The Rudd to have blossomed in here and like their cousins, might continue to feed as the winter approaches. Saying that there does seem to be a few odd hybrids kicking around as well.

The tench sport was always regular this summer, but with the clear weedy conditions it has proved to be hard fishing in daylight hours in the margins at least. Evenings on the other hand have been madness, with catches of five fish one after another being the norm once the light drops and they find my carefully laid crucian traps. The tench have been so keen on my methods that sadly I've had to step up my tackle just to not get destroyed every time one comes along, hence I've fished probably a pound or so heavier gear than I would like to on such a venue. The rewards for that small compromise has been some lovely conditioned tench.

It wasn't until the other day that I strayed away from this crucian quest and with the summer ticking away I felt that sticking one in the net for this year's challenge was quickly passing me by. So with that in mind I did a session on Snitterfield reservoir to tick that box. Though that wasn't as simple as I expected it to be, as where the tench at Napton have proved very susceptible to my method the bream at Snitters were downright mugs for it. I spent a very hot and uncomfortable afternoon working my way through a good twenty of them and a fair few hybrids to conclude to stop feeding bait to encourage them. Half an hour bite-less proved enough quiet for at least one of the original crucians to drift in over the bream polished spot and put a pound and two ounces on my score sheet.

As I sat looking at my year planner at work a few days ago I realised that this little endeavor had consumed a large portion of the year and with a holiday fast approaching I had to draw a line under this crucian quest. So with that in mind I planned a final trip to Napton in search of gold. The only difference between this session and every other one before it was the addition of some very crucian carp looking bubbles emanating from the reed bed close to where I was fishing. They though came to nothing and my vigil ended once again with a streak of hard fighting tench before the sun set on my final attempt to catch those illusive Napton crucians.

Weirdly I don't feel the slightest disappointment in not actually catching one of Napton's bars of gold. I have actually really enjoyed spending all this time trying to pick a needle from a haystack. I can say with some certainty that I saw two crucians roll in a very specific place more than forty feet out from the bank and should I have been inclined I might have set up a feeder rig or something to try and hang one up, but I was not inclined, as doing so just feels little vulgar to me. Seeing those individual bubbles rising round the float and hitting that tiny bite before nervously playing a little circling giant is what I want and should it take me another decade to get that then I am prepared to sit and happily wait amongst Napton's reeds for it to come.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Return to the river.

It seems like forever since I've paid the Avon any attention. I have had an odd look here and there since the season opened up, but frankly I've been a bit preoccupied with trying to catch a crucian out of Napton Reservoir. Anyway whilst away on holiday the idea to get my arse in gear and head back to the river really came to the forefront of my mind. It just happened that a bit of rain the few days before I got back had the river in tip top conditions for my return.

I have a new membership for a bit of the Avon which some of my angling buddies have been recommending for years, which this year I decided to get on. So with a couple of rods set up ready to go I decided to head down the A46 for a morning session. Normally I would have tried to be on the bank for first light, but my early morning bumbling roused BB and he discovered some presents which had been stashed in his room that were to big too transport on holiday, so my leaving was delayed a little whilst they were opened.

In the end I found myself pulling up in the car park around 9am and shockingly there was only two other cars evident. Where was everyone? I asked myself, as I had suspected everyone would be on the river given the conditions. The first angler I came across was on the first peg through the gate and a quick chat turned up that he'd already had three chub and two barbel from out in the faster water. This was good news and got me quickly heading off looking for a swim up river. I soon found a great looking swim where the fast water is deflected by a big bed of reeds and with the extra colour on the water it looked great for the barbel I so much wanted.  

Trying to be as careful as I could I gently cast into the crease with a PVA bag full of goodies attached to my rig. Although I did receive several taps of interest I was soon recasting again and again, working my way down the crease in subsequent casts towards some cover where I suspected the barbel might be lying in wait. After a few hours I was getting concerned I may have missed or messed up my shot at a barbel from this swim, but rather than just move off I opted to make one final cast a bit further out, away from the crease I'd been targeting into the faster water.

I'd been sitting on the cast for a good fifteen minutes before another angler from upstream dropped by to see how I was doing. We'd been whacking on for ten minutes as I kept an eye on the white rod tip out the corner of my eye. I clocked a slow nod of the tip which grabbed my attention then a quick sharp pull got my hand hovering over the rod and then bang, as predicted, the rod bent over as the fish tuned onto the weight of the lead.

In the fast shallow water I lent hard on the fish to stop it finding any of the weed beds which I knew lay hidden by the coloured water.  A long pause with both of us refusing to give an inch ended when the fish was pushed down stream by the flow... then all hell broke loose in the deeper clearer water under my own bank. This powerful fish worked me hard to keep it from getting back over the river into the fast water but everything held true and the soft action of my rod soon subdued the fish and a gaping mouth lined with barbules appeared on the surface before what looked a big fish slipped into the net.

After letting the fish recover in the water I lifted the net out and put it onto he mat. I lifted back the folds of the net to reveal a perfect long lean summer fish. I can truly say I was beaming with the sight of this perfect first barbel off of a new stretch of river, and my companion who had stood silent the whole fight seemed very impressed too. We both agreed it looked to be a good one though on the scales my suspicion that it was in lean condition proved true and even given its long length the fish was only 7.14lb. 

Maybe in the winter this fish could have been at least nine pounds or more. The weight though hardly mattered at all to me as I was over the moon that I should catch such an amazing fish for my first barbel off a new stretch of river.

The rain came in quickly after that and I opted to make a tactical retreat, but I was back a few days later to fish another swim aways downstream. This time the river had cleared and with that in mind I had brought a second lighter rod along to fish the maggot feeder upstream of the barbel rod, with the hope that the maggots going downstream, combined with the activity from other fish might draw up any wary barbel to have a look see what was going on. The plan actually worked, but not quite exactly as I wanted it to. The maggot line was alive with fish chasing the freebies as I dropped the feeder again and again onto the same spot at the head of the swim. Roach, dace, gudgeon and perch were queuing up waiting for the feeder to release more free maggots into the flow.

As the session went on the interest in my downstream rod increased slowly but surely. It took a while but random jags on the rod tip indicated something was afoot. Soon enough the rod bent over hard as something took the bait. After those initial moments when you lean into a fish feeling something powerful abated, the fish power dwindled and I realised the chub had turned up, attracted by all the activity. The first fish was a greedy two pounder but the second was a much longer fish just under four pounds, which like that first barbel would be much larger come winter.

The bug had really bit and another evening session was penned into my diary for a week or so later, after seeing that the long range forecast predicted another deluge of rain to bring the river into peak condition.

I arrived as quick as I could get there after work to find only one car in the car park, and after rushing over the fields to the river I scouted the whole section, baiting up a few spots as I went. The other angler was nowhere near where I wanted to fish and after a quick chat and finding out that although he was really after the silvers he had been skinned out a couple of time by big fish. This was perfect, no other anglers and feeding fish, how could I fail..?

The scene of my first barbel capture seemed the logical starting point and I was soon set-up and watching the river, trying to figure out the water in front of me as the added water and flow had seemingly changed the whole dynamic of the swim. It didn't take long to figure I'd chosen the most complicated swim to start with. There must have been seven or more areas in front of me screaming for a bait to go on them. In the end I began close in targeting a small crease right under my own bank. This produced nothing at all so I went about casting into each area I thought might hold barbel one after another for the next three hours. In the end I spent far too much time trying to logically cover the whole swim, in which time Mick had turned up and headed off upstream to fish for predators.

Having kind of shot myself in the foot time-wise, I decided to move downstream to fish one of the swims I had pre baited. With only enough time to fish one last swim I missed out a couple I had dropped bait into and went for the one I thought most likely to produce in the conditions. It was quite a simple swim I went to, with a large bed of bulrushes at the head that was creating a crease right down the centre of the river between the fast and slow water.

My first cast sent a tasty bag of morsels quickly down to the river bed just in the fast water, attached to a two ounce lead. The reaction was instant as my pre baiting already had fish nosing around on the gravel. Convinced the rod was going to bang over I had to sit on my hands as the small fish attacked the hook bait. I waited patiently and as I did, the rod soon indicated the presence of a bigger fish. A couple of nods later and the rod was nearly ripped of the rest and I was into a barbel. The initial savagery subsided and an interesting battle ensued in the slow water. It was only about four pound but this solid and fresh barbel took no prisoners as it dived into every possible place it could get snagged. In the end though the fact I was fishing gear capable of landing even the biggest fish won the fight and I netted an immaculate barbel that saved my session. 

The next cast produced the same response but this time I thought I'd hooked a small chub or something until I went to lift it out and a tiny sub pound barbel managed to shake itself off the hook, vibrating mid-lift, and dived straight back into the river. They were only small but two barbel in two casts were good numbers for me. I really wanted to get my bait right onto the bait I had put down earlier so I tried my very best to land the rig and new bag of freebies on the very centre of the crease. In doing so though I tightened up and it was more than obvious my bait was on the inside of the crease in the slow water. I decided to give it a chance and wait, letting it sit there for fifteen minutes at least, but I didn't feel in was the best place for it at all. 

The bite came out of nowhere with no warning which made it all that more shocking. One moment the rod was stationary the next it was bending double, lifting the butt out of the rests. Straight away I could feel this was a fish in another league. It powered all over the swim through both the fast and slow water with me just holding on tight and trying my best to steer it away from any hazards. After covering every bit of water in front of me, the fish dived straight into some lillies in the slow water, but its power and my power linked by the line just cut straight though the stems leaving the pad floating away downstream. A few dives later and I had what I knew was a good barbel in the net. As it rested in the water I made the call to Mick to ask for a spot of help taking a photo or two which turned out to be a brilliant decision as my camera phone, although great in day light, was useless in the half light. Luckily Mick brought his camera and I was soon proudly holding up my first double from this new stretch and beaming from behind all ten pounds and seven ounces of it.

In three close sessions this new bit of river has proved exactly how honest it is. By that I mean; it looks like it should contain barbel and chub and it does, it looks healthy and it seems it is and in the right conditions the fish should feed and they do. Which for the Warwickshire Avon, isn't that common from what I've seen in the past. A lot of the time I fished sections of the Avon and thought, this has to be a good area for this or that, and been let down. This place though seems different and I hope my theories about other different sections come to fruition over the autumn and winter. If they do, well, a few more red letter days for other species could be on the horizon.