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.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

A holiday tipple.

I don't mind admitting that the sea surrounding the Isle of Wight came as a bit of a shock to me. You see my impressions of the water surrounding our nation are founded on the muddy waters of Great Yarmouth, Weston Super Mare, Skegvegas or Blackpool. From the moment the ferry which carried us to the island left Southampton water and entered the Solent it became quickly clear that the waters surrounding the island are pretty much gin clear. Really, from most places on the island overlooking the sea you could easily surmise you were in the Mediterranean if it weren't for the multitudes of regional British accents you hear and the general lack of consistency in the weather.

I have learnt my lesson with trying to fish as much as I have in the past on holiday since BB has come along and for now with a raging toddler filling both mine and JB's time, I conceded to not over commit and just take a couple of lure rods along just in case I got the chance to have a dabble in the rocky clear waters around Colwell Bay and Totland where we were staying.

Not long in I got the chance to have a little explore and chose to go and check out a intriguing reef which jutted out from the land between Colwell and Totland. Literally with no experience fishing these clear rocky marks I choose to fish a 4" curly tailed grub on a Texas rig after research revealed this to be a good method to target wrasse and maybe even bass along the edges of the reef. I realized as soon as I arrived that the tide was on its way up and this meant my fishing of this area was of a single dimension. Really I would have loved to gone out onto the rocks but good sense prevailed and lucky it did as the tide, once level with top of the rock, ripped over them with the power of the Atlantic behind it. I raised a single hit on this session which I was convinced was from a wrasse lurking close the edge of the reef. My failure to strike may go some way to explain why I never connected with the fish, but hey ho they'll be another chance I thought....but there wasn't!

On my first outing I did notice through my polarized glasses that the entire sea wall in the area I was fishing was paved with massive random boulders along its base. So when the next opportunity came along I went out armed only with a drop shot rod to fish worm style baits amongst the rocks and target some of the mini species I figured should be lurking in the nooks and crannies.

This turned out to be my best decision and just happened to coincide with the best evening's weather we had the entire time we were away. First drop in and I felt the familiar rattle as some micro monster took umbrage with my wiggling worm gyrating in its front garden. Paradoxically to how quickly I got some interest, it took me ages to settle on a productive hooking arrangement and to actually hit one of the aggressive little fish which were assaulting my lure. After several missed strikes I finally hooked a powerful little fish which once pulled from the rocks circled like a mad head before revealing itself to be a stunning and my first ever corkwing wrasse. 

Turns out every gap in the rocks bigger than half a foot seemed to contain at least one which would come flying out its hidey hole once my lure touched bottom and began to gyrate around in front of them. Whether it was hunger or aggression motivating attacks one thing was evident, these colourful critters did not stop biting that tiny worm lure until they ripped it off, I removed it, or they got hooked. 

Through the few hours until the sunset I caught loads of these amazing little fish that lived in quite a savage place amongst the rocks with the pulsating waves constantly smashing upon them. Some were only a few inches long and others as big as my hand. But they all had the same things in common; they were all the most amazing myriad of colours, and they all were super aggressive.

The conditions proved to be my greatest problem whilst we were on the island. The incessant west south west wind battering up the Solent made light lure fishing seem rather futile. On more than one occasion an opportunity to get out for a quick session was made pointless by the wind. In the end I was tempted to go and spend a late afternoon on Yarmouth pier to try and winkle something from amongst the pilings.

Once again the wind didn't help me out and that, in combination with a racing tide firing along, it made for an interesting session. A lot of the locals were chucking out mackerel feathers with big leads to drag them down in the savage tide. Me on the other hand had nothing more than a 30 gram drop shot weight to try and get my lures near the bottom. This endeavor did not prove fruitful at all! Even with low diameter braided line and my heaviest weight, the whole rig was sinking only momentarily before the tide tore it away and lifted it off the bottom.

I wasn't about to give up though and after a good look round I found a couple of shoals of small bass loitering under the end of the pier, attacking tiny fry as they attempted to seek shelter around the pilings. Instead of fighting the flow I used it to my advantage and with a black and silver Fox micro fry on the hook I cast the weighted rig up tide and retrieved it mid depth along the pilings past the shoals of hungry bass in the shade of the pier.

First cast...BOOM! and even a one pound bass sticks a proper bend in a light lure rod in the powerful tide of the Solent, trust me. The little bass were so preoccupied by attacking the smaller fish they never gave the lure so much as a second look before smashing it. These silver spiny predators were stuffed full of tiny little fish which were unidentifiable once the little bass had grabbed hold of them. In a manic hour I was casting constantly and retrieving the lure through several lines around the piling; doing so resulted in me catching several nice bass and losing quite a few as they shook off the hook just as I tried to lift them up. As quickly as they appeared, those little Bass sank back under the pier, but finding them in the first place made the trip up the coast and the day ticket fee well worth it.

That trip to Yarmouth pier turned out to be the last session of the holiday as the conditions towards the end of the week got a bit worse and before we knew it it was time to board the ferry again to cross the Solent back to the mainland.

I find myself thinking back to these few short sessions with fondness and I realize now that in perfect conditions and with the addition of a maybe a beach outfit, the Isle of Wight could really be sea fishing heaven. The combination of being able to go after the micro species and bigger fish could produce some amazing captures as long as you can actually get out fishing and cope with the strong tides. Maybe in the future I might get a chance to put my theory into practice, possibly when young BB is a bit older and might want to come along for a go himself should we go back.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

I name thee George of Jubilee.

Hi my names Daniel and it's been over eleven days since my last cast...
(Pause for applause)
...and I am clucking!!!


To be in a state of Drug/Heroin withdrawal. From the phrase cold turkey.

I was desperate to get out fishing after life and work seemed to conspire to prevent me getting out and I was in the need for something savage. The wonderful art of trotting, to sedately, delicately float fish for a crucian couldn't scratch this itch, nor would chasing illusive Rudd in clear water salve me. I needed something savage to satiate me; I needed rods being torn from rests, bite alarms screaming and battles that would make your arms ache. It's all right people wanting to be at one with nature and appreciating being out, but I needed the precious silence of the country to be shattered by vicious runs...I needed to be hit by something hard coursing through my veins.
Really, the surprise of the three foot barbel twitch would have been best, but with only a few hours to spare and the Avon being in about as good form as the England international side, carp it seemed would have to do. Searching out rarities was a gamble I was unwilling to take, so the familiar reliability of horseshoe pool nestled away at the back of jubilee pools seemed the perfect place to get me hit
I actually love carp fishing and in another life I could make a proper commitment to it if I didn't also love a variety of other fish. I get bored campaigning and am easily distracted from grey backed monsters. These short sessions margin carping are just up my street. As always the margins were my targets and the polished clear gravel where sneaky grubbers mop up dumped bait are my target areas. As always on this session I actually try to mimic these patches of chucked out bait and what always gets lobbed away at the end of a session?..corn. It's cheap and no one can be arsed to bag it for next time, so in it goes. That yellow signal draws them in every time, mix in a bit of something smelly with a few more tasty nutritional morsels and that rod has to bend round.
With one spot to my left baited up and three others primed in other swims, I sat on the ground ten feet from my rod in the shade of a tree. Dark shapes already moved over the bait and although they were tench it was only a matter of time before something bigger was alerted to the feast that lay on the gravel.
I'd barely whistled three bars of the latest CBeebies ear worm stuck in my head when the rod tip bent round and the alarm screamed blue murder. Good thing I had the fore thought to screw some snag ears on under the alarm the rod off the alarm before I dashed the short distance and grabbed the rod. The initial violence subsided quickly as a small, wildish looking common repeatedly rolled in the margin, and with one roll and twang of a fin it was free.
After checking the rig I peered onto the spot again to check it was clear before quietly placing the rig tight to the bank under an overhanging branch. A few more boilies, a dash of pellet-filled ground bait and a fist load of corn and I was back under the tree cross legged listening to the birds BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP!!!!!!!  And the same performance was under away again. The rod tip was in the water this time as fish bolted after being nailed by the hook. An unusually spirited fight from a fish, it's size revealed a real bastard koi ghost common cross thing, which was probably the biggest gold fish I have caught to date. 
After posting the picture up on a whatsapp chat the first person to mock my mighty goldfish was George Burton off of float flight and flannel so in keeping with that popular carp angling tradition of naming fish, I name this oversized gold fish George of Jubilee. Hopefully everyone will take that one on and just to make sure, I will get it sent in for the next newsletter from the club ;)

With George set free I turned my attention back to this already productive spot, re-baited once again with more goodies and positioned my rig on the closest part of the baited area to the bank so as any feeding fish wouldn't find my line. With the line positioned carefully along the bank I retreated to wait for more action. It took a while but eventually the buzzer wailed but before I got to the rod the fish managed to shake the rig off some ten feet away from the spot where it had been hooked.

This time when I peered back over the bushes to see if the coast was clear to drop the rig in again, two carp were heads down having a munch. They didn't stick around long and soon enough I was tightening the line on my trap. More bait attracted more fish and a group of small tench soon drifted around over the bait, but once they cleared off the swim seemed abandoned. After waiting a good forty five minutes, I was getting ready to head off home via the chippy. I'd just picked up my little rod bag when all hell broke loose. The alarms shrill tone sounded and the rod arched round and a huge boil erupted in the edge.

I hadn't expected to get another one before I left, but it seems turning my back for that moment was long enough for a beautiful mirror to sneak in and snaffle some freebies and with them my hook bait. This fight and subsequent selfies added fifteen minutes to my leaving time. It was worth it though as this fish and its fight were exactly what I needed on this short session and it really satisfied my cravings for a good old bit of angling excitement and vigour.

Friday, 30 June 2017

A bit of obsession, preoccupation, mania and addiction.

A little over a year has passed since I found myself in the right place at the right time and fished exactly the right way to realise a dream and bag myself a quartet of Napton's rarest residents. I can recall the memory of that day perfectly in my mind, from the moment I saw the first golden flank roll close to my float and through the frustration of catching tench when I knew the crucians were so close by, then ultimately the panicky joy of netting that first one. Now though I have had a year to ruminate over that day and weirdly, although I should be satisfied by catching four ancient fish in one go, I actually find myself even more eager to catch more. 

Frankly, although outwardly it might seem to even the most informed passerby that I looked as if I were fishing for tench at Napton, the reality is that if I have a float rod out I am always fishing for crucians. You see I believe that unlike the few accidental captures that occur through the year, most possible captures are missed by the shear ridiculous shyness of their bite combined with normally difficult conditions. Because of this I opt to use a sensitive method combined with a selection of identical floats in various sizes. By doing this I believe I can cope with the testing conditions that you can experience at Napton whilst still registering the slightest of bites and thus am satisfied that I will see even the tiniest of bites.

Being able to see their bites aside the reality of actually trying to catch a crucian, or should I say one of the tiny group of old crucians from Napton, falls simply into a category that could be entitled with any of the following; obsession, preoccupation, mania, addiction. Its madness really as it simply is like looking for a needle in a hay stack and Napton is one huge haystack. Now although this is the first time I have written of it this year, the fact is that I can't even recall how many times in the last few weeks I've made that trip across the county and back. What I do know is now when I walk out our front door and JB asks me where I am going and I reply Napton she says "again" and the chap in our local petrol station seems to like me more than ever and greets me with a big smile and a, "back so soon", every time I go in to top up.

Without going to much into to my current obsession, it began on the 16th when the tench were feeling fruity and all I caught was a hundred weight of perch averaging eight ounces and one old carp, which happens to be the first of its type that I have hooked and tamed on my light gear in Napton.

God, if it weren't for the fact that I love catching tench I would be in a bad place right now. Literally I have caught loads of them in every conceivable shape, sex and temperament. I've had them close in and far out. I've caught them when they were biting so shy that the float only rose half a centimeter out of the water and when they were having it so much the float shot up like a rocket.

I've tried to be practical and pragmatic about this, targeting three key swims and more specifically a key area in each of those swims for them, but in absolute honesty I have not seen hide nor hair of a crucian in a sea of tench. I have seen a few eye opening things being up there so much; like a massive fully scaled mirror carp which swam right under my feet, what I think may have been a sterlet swimming around in the clear water and some very nice rudd and roach to boot. The latter of which were the first on the scene when I made the change to bread hook baits a few nights ago.

Other species aside, the tench keep coming and now that their nuptials seem to be done with, they have stepped up a gear of the feeding stakes. The case in point being one of the three swims I am targeting is in some very clear water and is festooned with weed which myself and another chap have been diligently clearing out with weed rakes. Its a perfect ambush spot for a late evening crucian just as dark creeps in. But the tench are so into feeding that they will come right into the clear spot only a few feet from the bank at any time of the day and let me tell you, playing even the smallest tench in a pool-table sized gap in the thick weed is a nightmare.

The one thing I can say for the tench is that I do finally seem to be seeing a few better examples appearing after a spring full of sub five pounders. 

It almost sounds like am being ungrateful for catching all these beautiful fish and in a way I suppose I am, as none of them are the ghosts of Napton that I seek. But then again if I am going commit to trying to catch another one of the deep bodied golden treasures then I'd rather the in between time is filled with lovely tench which are after all one of my favourite species, and catching them on the float whilst whiling away my time is so much more rewarding than being parked behind buzzers waiting for runs.

Although other summer targets need some attention and if I want to achieve those targets I know I will have to drag myself away from the bank of this epic water and this insane quest. But I don't think I will be totally abandoning this venture any time soon and as I got a sniff of a lead on a possible target area where they may have been spotted very recently and it's certainly worth following up.