Friday, 26 May 2017

Ryton's on the change.

I read somewhere once that lakes go through cycles in relation to the dominant species within. It said that lakes are either dominated by bream or tench and that even if both are present it is normally a case that there will be one species that is dominant with the other only present in small numbers. At the time of reading this I never thought that much about it, but now thinking back and applying this theory to some of the lakes I fish, it makes sense. My old adversary Coombe pool was in the past renowned for being a bream Mecca, and although there is still a giant shoal of bream swimming round in it, there is no doubt that the bream numbers are dropping and more tench seem to be showing up. Napton reservoir in all its bleak resplendence is predominantly a tench water with apparently a handful of big bream. Personally I think the dominance of a species in an environment is simply down to environmental factors and who they benefit, and my belief was further reinforced when the other week I returned to a favourite lake of mine, Ryton pool. Ryton has changed a lot since I began fishing years ago. I remember the first year I fished it when the water was gin clear and the weed grew so much that by midsummer I reckon with a spot of luck and light feet you could have run across the top of it. Others years after that there was differing amounts of weeds and clarity but one thing remained the same; tench were what you caught and bream were just rumors. Fast forward ten or so years and I once again stared into the water exactly where I did when I first came to this lake and one difference was that I quite simply could not see the bottom as I could on that first visit. Over the years this sandpit lake has become more and more coloured during the warmer months and possibly as a result things might be changing.

When I arrived on my first session a while ago the water was coloured but the lake looked pretty much as it had when I last walked away four years ago. The few stages still dotted the woodland bank, people were still feeding the water fowl copious amounts of food from the duck feeding station and the long concrete road bank was still infested with rats all the way down to the very last swim on the side of the road point where I decided to fish.

Much to my amusement I was lectured quite arrogantly by a pair of young carp anglers after I asked how it was fishing. The pair of Noddys must have thought they were auditioning for a role on Thinking Tackle the way they were talking. Everything was casting out tight to this or using that and honestly, they sounded a proper pair of idiots. Worst of all was that I reckon when I first started fishing Ryton one of them might not have been that long out of nappies.

The faces sitting around the pool may have changed since back in the day, but the fishing it seemed hadn't. After pitching up on the end of the concrete I began fishing exactly as I used to, by casting method feeders at range. This tactic always worked well here as the disturbance caused by putting down a bed of bait seemed to put the fish off too long to be of benefit. By roaming the feeders round I always seemed to pick up a fair few fish, then once an area came to life repeated casting usually found more fish.

It didn't take much more than fifteen minutes for the line I had cast onto the plateau in front of the island to scream off. Much to my annoyance this fish snapped the five pound hook link I was using and straight away two new heavier links were tied and cast out baited with 10mm boilies, which proved to be the down fall of a slew of nice tench.

The best of the session was not much over four pounds but still I was very happy to see that the tench were still about in Ryton. Much to my amusement the arrogant young carpers down the bank were being driven crazy by my buzzers going off all afternoon and I wasn't helping the situation by increasing the volume with every fish to make sure they heard the shrill tones. They might not have been carp I was catching, but every time a buzzer sounded I could see their little faces looking over to see what I was reeling in.

What came along next though would herald a change which I think could well be the end of the tenchs domination of Ryton pool. After a single bleep the bobbin dropped back and for Ryton that's unusual. Every tench you catch generally pulls the bobbin up be it gently or violently and when I lifted into the fish I was met with a dead weight. In all the years previously fished on this pool I have caught two bream. The first was a random four pound silver thing and the other was an old bugger that was knobbly, black and blind in both eyes. What rolled into my net was young, a few pounds and just turning from skimmer too bream.

The tench were gone after this fish and no matter where I moved my feeders they seemed to be found by another little bream. Four more homed in on my ground bait topped method feeders and sent my bobbins back as they moved off with the baits.

Where these young bream had come from was a mystery, everyone who fished this pool knows of the shoal of big old bream which rarely got caught and everyone was of the opinion that they were well past breeding age. Turns out that might not be the case and that possibly some bream Viagra might have found its way into Ryton about three years ago from the look of these healthy young buggers.

A few days later I went back to have a second crack at Ryton under the belief that these bream might have just been a freak occurrence, but exactly the same thing happened. Two tench were landed not long after arriving...

Then the rest of the session was dominated by the veracious horde of young bream which quite literally followed my feeders back to my own bank after I began fishing at range and ultimately ended up margin fishing in an attempt to avoid them. 

It is with disappointment in my heart that I say I reckon Ryton is on the change. Yes the tench are still present, but undoubtedly after a couple of sessions it is obvious that there is a hell of a lot of these 2-4lb bream present at this time. Looking at them they look really young and strong, they almost seem pre programmed to eat boilies, which is no suprise as loads get fed into this water. It's a sad time for the tench fishing at Ryton which I used to love so much, as these bream will ultimately have a huge effect on the water and probably push the tench out over time. Although there could be a silver lining to this change! If they can avoid the predators and keep growing as they seem to have, maybe in a few years Ryton might be filled with really big bream which could make for some interesting fishing in the future.

Friday, 19 May 2017

A Jobber's point collecting job.

When I decided to take part in this most recent fishing challenge, I said to myself it was always going to be a case of just doing what I wanted to do and collecting any points that came along as a result of my captures, unlike in previous challenges where I have gone off searching for specific points. My good intentions though lasted all of five minutes, after I decided to go on a point collecting mission and head down to one of my favorite sections of canal to try and catch a few decent examples of a few different species. 

The idea to go a fish the canal using some old school Sensas ground bait while fishing worms over the top had popped out of my brain goo a while ago.  As it's something I rarely do on canals nowadays I wondered what the reaction on this highly populated area might be. So after settling on a favorite fish holding area I plumbed my float up two inches over depth and baited a small area about a foot square with four hard golf ball sized balls of Lake black ground bait, laced with a few broken worms, and threw in one loose ball to break up on the way down. Then while that stewed away sending of waves of scent down the canal with the tow, I got comfortable.

I reckon worms must make up a huge proportion of small zanders diet as I regularly catch them on worm sections and because of that I wasn't surprised to see the first fish that pulled my float under was a sprightly little zander.

The next bite came not even minutes after the float had settled down to only the orange tip. A quick dip indicated the lob tail being sucked in and the float then slid away as something moved out of the swim. My light rod hooped over severely towards the water as I tried to man handle the fish away from my spot to the side of the swim so as not to spook any other still on my bait. It turned out to be a nice big perch. Wanting to weigh the fish I kept it in the net after unhooking it and nonchalantly just threw the bait out into the water. As I was faffing around with my scales I notice the rod nodding down towards the water. After picking it up I was once again playing a powerful fish and moments later a brace of big perch lay side by side in the net ready to be weighed.

I wished I had bought a keep net along as the sport had gone from zero to frantic instantly and I could just saved the weighing of the fish till the end. But having not bought a  keep net I just persevered and the next fish that needed weighing came along immediately after a quartet of pound perch. With no hint of an impending bite my float zipped under, I struck and straight away I knew I was playing a different sort of fish. With a dogged thumping fight I knew it was a roach and as per normal for this area it was a big one of well over a pound in weight

Before messing around trying to photograph the roach I took a moment to top up again and hopefully prime the swim. So two hard golf ball sized balls of ground bait went in followed by a single loose ball help spread the scent. It worked too, as first put in a small bream took the bait, followed by two of it mates up to nearly three pounds.

In little over an hour I had amassed a very nice catch, that any match angler fishing a canal match would have happily swapped this catch for his right nut I know. After the last bream it turned into a perch finale until the sky clouded over. I think my feeding of broken lob worms over the ground bait kept a few lingering around and every so often one would nip in to have a feed. I quickly figured what the perch really liked was taking the worms falling through the water, rather than picking them up of the bottom. Once I'd clocked this I was constantly lifting the bait up and dropping it down. By doing this I kept busy right up until home time catching another twenty or so fish topped off with a very nice near two.

Apart from amassing a weight of fish that would have won a match on pretty much any canal, I easily totted up a few points for the challenge whilst having thoroughly enjoyable evening. I reckon I might do a few more of these point collecting forays through the year, especially in the late summer when these perch should be in prime condition and maybe that bench mark two pound roach might be a little more attainable.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Challenge accepted.

So the sun once again rises on the dawn of a new fishing challenge and this year I am in it. It's been a few years since I was involved in one of these blogger fuelled cannon ball runs to establish bragging rights over a few brethren. When I was asked by George Burton off of Float, Flight and Flannel if I fancied taking part I pondered the history of the challenge for a while before confirming my entry. You see I was one of the original four who pioneered this madcap challenge in its infancy along with Keith Jobling (now full time fitness fanatic and lothario), Jeff Hatt (now an international art forger know as Le Hatt) and Brummie Pete (still lives in Birmingham). Back then the challenge was simpler, rather local and fuelled by beer, oh and every year Keith won because he was the only one of us prepared to commit his entire life to beating everyone into submission. Now though this newer more complex challenge is populated by many more anglers from all over the country and makes the old challenge look a bit like village cricket match, rather than a premiership season which it has become. The top challengers are now younger and even thirstier for success and I suppose from what I have seen watching from the wings these last few years, the challenger to beat, or the Chelsea of this group if you will, is James Dension off of James' Angling Adventures. And I quite fancy joining the pack of old dogs baying at his heels to depose him from the winner's podium.

I was quite excited for the whistle to blow and the challenge to begin as the clock rolled over midnight on the 31st of April. Mind you I had already predicted that on a session the day before I would bag something which would have made a lovely first fish on my score. After choosing a brutal swim on a local reservoir I battled it out for a full three hours throwing maggot feeders cross wind onto a spot I stuck with all morning. Finally after freezing half to death on the back of the wind, my bobbin lifted positivity as my alarm sounded some definite fishy attention. Fishing a heavy rod on windswept water did nothing more than make a dull battle even fuzzier. As I stabbed the net towards the fish I was certain it was a good rudd, turns out it was a great roach of 1.10 which would have been so useful twenty four hours later.

It actually took me twenty six and a half hours to get back to the reservoir and in that time the wind had swung round from an easterly to a north easterly. On arriving I was struggling to find a peg on the bank I wanted as the bank holiday crowds were very much in it for the day. In the end I found a corner peg in the shallows of the water. It was vacant apart from the angler in the next peg who had decided to cast a sleeper carp rod across the swim to some reeds. Stubbornly and with a little griping to his mate he got the hint that I was just going to cast across him if he didn't remove it from what was now my water. Really I had no problem with the situation apart from he was fishing a rod specifically after carp but only had with him one of those small match pan nets, which would have been about as much use as a tea strainer should he have hooked a actual carp.

The fishing on this evening session was more than a bit slow, really I had expected the fish to come on the feed as the day settled down and the sun sank towards the horizon, but it took ages for the residents to get onto the bed of red maggots I had spombed out, or to find the method feeder loaded with pungent groundbait I was casting at any nice looking spots or rolling fish. It was the arrival of the rudd and small perch which signaled the change. A few smaller six ounce rudd and a hand full of perch got the alarms beeping as they moved over the patch of feed, plucking at my maggot hook baits as they did.

Once the action started it soon became almost rhythmical. Fill the feeder, cast onto the clip, sink the line, set the bobbin, wait five minutes then beep beep beep. All was well and good until a tench turned up and kited from one side of the swim to the other on a tight line. After struggling to slowly draw it back and scooping it safely into the net I was unhooking it when the second rod came to life, bending round to the right as a self-hooked fish struggled to rid itself of the rig. I didn't quite get to it in time before the fish was off and I was striking into thin air, but I had one in the net already so I wasn't too disappointed with my fish proper tench of the year, albeit a right rum looking bugger.

With the sun setting the temperature sank further putting an end to an all too brief feeding spell. In the end it wasn't actually too bad of a session to start the challenge with. I'd had to work hard in still awkward conditions but my perseverance had come good with a few nice rudd up to 10oz, load of well marked perch and one really rough tench which all add up to a few points on the board. 

I feel this new challenge will serve to motivate me to doing a few things I haven't done for a while and certainly get me going after some species I have neglected the last few years, and you never know with a bit of luck to go with this motivation maybe, just maybe I can keep up with the favourites before until the sun sets on this challenge. 

Friday, 21 April 2017

Canal carp - a crisis of confidence.

Everyone who fishes canals will have some kind of tale or tome of canal carp to tell. I suspect it's the linear nature of canals that helps information travel down them to be dribbled like honey into people's ears by passing travellers. Personally with all the time I've spent on canals I reckon I must have heard thousands of stories about monsters hiding on the far bank cover over the years. The truth of the matter is that all canals contain carp, be them born or bred, dumpers, stockies or escapes, they are there and beyond all the bluff and bluster you hear about how to catch them there is one single box to tick in order to attain success as far as I am concerned; location. Quite frankly you could fish in a carpy looking location for the rest of your life and not catch a single fish if it is simply not their chosen home.

With regards to location, I can think of six spots on three different sections of canal that I have either seen or caught carp from. I have spent a fair bit of time on these spots in years past and as much as I reckon the fish have probably grown, I'd like to find a few unknown fish to me, so I have started looking at few more likely spots with supposed form to target. The first is a very well known supposed carp haunt of the Grand union were fish of preposterous sizes are reported to swim and I gave it a look on an evening session recently when the weather was fine enough for carp.

I like to keep things simple when carp fishing and on the canal, rigs hidden in PVA bags are always the way to go. Firstly you can cast them into any tiny space you want with little fear of tangles, secondly they sink slowly without the lead burying in the deep silt that can line the bottom and thirdly they are great for fishing for one bite by presenting a concentrated pile of smelly bait. All that said it seemed on this occasion my simple tactics might not have been reliable, as I did not generate anything near a bite in five hours. I had a few liners but definitely no contact with the rigs, which was concerning. Without dwelling on a blank I moved on to the next session along with my new compact kit.

I feel I should mention the new set up I am using this season for carp. You know I've always felt taking twelve foot carp rods and big reels down the cut to a bit of overkill. Then a while ago I bought a 9ft Nash dwarf rod for stalking carp and after seeing how great this little rod was I invested in a second one and matched them up with a pair of Korum KXI reels. I then bought a specific rod bag for the Dwarf rods which is not much over three feet long and also carries my 36" carp net with handle that splits into two. All the rest of the stuff I might need packs into my Korum day sack which leaves me with a kit so compact that no spot is too far away.

My next canal session was a disaster and that was pretty much all my fault. I agreed to meet Mick on a very reliable section of canal where he was going to fish for zander and I for carp. Anyway to cut a long story short I decided to hang out with Mick and have a chat rather than head straight down to the banker spot. As nice as it was catching up with Mick, it allowed some else to get on my spot. Frankly I was shocked as I have never seen another carp angler there ever and here was one right where I wanted to be. When I arrived and after chatting to the other angler I set up shop a little way up the canal  in a spot of lesser quality which produced zip all once again.

Confidence in any sort of angling is key in my opinion and at this point I had none. Worst of all though I had opted to use a new bait for this canal carp caper and as good as it smelt to me I wasn't sure it was doing the business. I expected those starving canal bream to be on it like a tramp on chips and so far I was saving a fortune on bite alarm batteries. With this crisis of confidence in both bait and me I had no choice but to have a session on somewhere a little easier. So with a spare afternoon off work I went over to fish Jubilee pools, or specifically horseshoe pool.

These pools suffer a bit of an image problem if you ask me and some of that is down to their name I reckon. Though referred to as pools they are in fact pits where sand and gravel were extracted from along with Ryton pool and Meadow lands. Should they be referred to a jubilee pits then certainly in carp fishing circle they would command a bit more respect than a lowly old pool. That aside Horseshoe for one looks like a gravel pit if you look beyond the wooden stages that line the lip of the pool like teeth. And the fish do behave more like gravel pit fish as they swim around the clear weedy water. The only way this pool differs from most gravel pits is in stock density. Being the coffer fillers they are, the controlling club keeps them well overstocked with fish as to please the day ticket paying masses. Weirdly though the fish seem to exhibit different habits. The small carp are nearly always lingering in the upper layers of the water, where as a totally different size class patrol the margins like nervous submarines, and it was those nervous submarines that I wanted to test my confidence out on.

After walking round the lake a bit and finding most of it empty of anglers, I fed four swims on one bank where I had seen a few groups of bigger fish nosing around. These bigger fish love nothing more than coming into the margins in the evening and mopping up all the discarded bait, and that's exactly what I wanted my freebies to look like. After putting out a handful of corn in each swim along with a few broken boilies and whole boilies I waited and watched to see which of the four swims offered the batter chance. Random fish kept coming into all of them but one swim had a couple of groups of fish the others didn't repeatedly stopping by, so thats where I decided to set my trap. Once all the bait was gone I quickly nipped in and set up my rods and alarms on the path leading into the swim. There was a large clear area all around the platform so carefully placed one rig on the further edge of the clear spot and the second right under the platform. After making sure my line was pinned down tight to the bottom by a few blobs of tungsten putty and a small back weight I re-baited with more broken boilies and corn and retreated well away from the peg. 

The fish were soon back and I waited a good hour before the water finally erupted and the alarm screamed as a fish found my sneaky two halves of boilie bait and sucked it in. It took a while for the fish to fully get its head round its circumstance and when it did the rod really started to bend.

After an epic tussle which destroyed the swim and my other rod, I finally dragged the net out of the brambles and slipped it under a stunning little common which filled my confidence jar close to the brim.

After I released that low double a few swims away I returned to carnage. In the panic of the fight everything had gone everywhere. My second rod was lying on the floor with the line still over the buzzer. There were mats, selfie sticks and half the contents of my bags strewn all over the floor. As I walked towards the second rod on the floor the alarm beeped once and thinking it was about to go off I froze. From just at the edge of the swim I could see a real strange group of fish had drifted into swim and were picking up odd bit here and there. There was a golden tench, a tiny common carp and a huge mirror. I would have said they had all arrived separately until the golden tench moved off and its buddies followed it. Quickly I got both rods out a again this time with a PVA bag on each. Both were in same positions as before when I saw the golden tench reappear followed by its two carpy friends. None of them dipped onto the baits but they all paused a moment as they passed over them. I watched those three fish drift in and out again and again, each time the mirror seemed bigger.

Soon my time was running out and worst of all their confidence was building with the more time they spent in the swim. With little over thirty minutes till I had to be off the water I watched as the two carp homed in on my close in bait. I watched willing them to dip down towards it... then Bleeeeeeeeeep the moment was shattered by the bite alarm I watched confused as the two carp shot off to the left and my line on my right had rod surged out into the lake. Whilst watching the fish I wanted to catch near one line someone had snuck in and taken the other. It turned out to be a very boisterous common not to dissimilar to the other apart from this one was rushed in a bit which meant it was very lively on the mat hence the crap selfie with it.

This trip to Jubilee pits was well served to boost my confidence in both what I was doing and in the bait I have decided to use. Now all I need is the weather to warm up a bit and I should be able to start homing in on a few canal targets myself.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

End of the same old same old.

Its been a while since I have had chance to post anything and that's not down to not fishing, but is rather due to just not having time. I never thought I'd be this time poor, but I am right now. Fishing though, I always can shoe horn in some of that! To be honest I've not been that motivated of late, I really feel like I've been doing the same old things for the same old species every time I am out at the moment and am ready for a change of tack.

 I've done plenty of light lure fishing and caught plenty of plump spiny perch...

I even had a go to try and locate and catch by design a canal chub. Turns out the species my rigs best designed for were roach bream hybrids, of which I caught three nice examples of on my cheesy bread baits...

Somewhere in the middle of my canal bashing I did sneak an afternoon session to try out my new compact carp outfit. Sadly the carp in the pool I visited were more interested in sunning themselves than eating, and the only action came from the mini tench in the pool which seemed able to repeatedly pick up my baits without getting hooked. In the end I did hook one tench which was followed by a small bream. Neither put up any kind of fight on the heavy gear, so both were freed without even lifting them from the water.

Although frankly a bit sick of canal perch fishing I did conclude to end this self imposed monotony with an apt finale where I would go and fish one of my all time favorite perch haunts on the Grand union, and pile in the bait hoping for a big haul of kippers. The haul was big but the average size of the fish was low. Normally here you can expect three of every ten fish caught to be over a pound. On this occasion though I had to catch nearly twenty fish of around 8oz before anything big turned up.

When a bigger fish did finally show up it was quite obvious that they were gorging heavily on the chopped worm I was liberally plying into the murky water.  The first fish over a pound was spewing bits of worm out of its stomach and out of its gills.

The zander to were out and about in the sunshine looking for an easy meal. I had brought along the now ubiquitous dead rod and cast half a roach out into the centre channel. The float hadn't moved an inch for an hour whilst fished to my left. Once I moved it to my right though it soon shot off as the first of a trio of zander took the bait of the same spot one after another.

Having quite a large amount of worm at my disposal for this perch finale I kept feeding heavily and along with what seemed like hundreds of small fish the bigger ones homed in onto the baited area. I lost a good one as it rolled in front of me and it's escaping heralded a lull in the sport until another decent fish hovered up my hook bait along with a load of freebies. It wasn't over the standard 2lb mark which become common in this area but it wasn't far off. I turned out to be the last perch of the session and looked very nice in the setting sunlight.

This area is a very strange bit of water as both the perch and zander feed viciously through the daylight hours, peaking quite often around the brightest bit of the day, Whereas the witching hour once that light goes, is useless fishing. What that is to do with I don't know and frankly I ain't going to find out until possibly next autumn as I am very ready to draw a line under the perch fishing till then. Now though the carp gear is coming out and I am starting to once again try and locate and catch some proper monster canal carp.

Friday, 24 February 2017

A spot of commercial success.

What do you do when you have only a small window of time to fish on a damp dull Saturday afternoon? Had it been June I feel I would have gone stalking carp or maybe had a few hours throwing surface lures, but it wasn't June it was February and neither of the afore mentioned options were open to me. I did consider chub fishing on the upper Avon, but that seemed more an option for a freezing day rather than a day like this which was a balmy 10c. There was though something I had been meaning to check out again... You see I was told a short while back by a match fishing friend that one of the commercial fisheries I sometimes fish for big perch had not thrown a single one up all through the winter league and that it looked like they might have done that thing big perch do after too much pressure and disappear.

I kind of have it my head that these commercial giants might not have disappeared but instead got wise to the methods by which my match fishing compadres were catching them on. From that I surmised that more than likely big baits would be the way to go as not many match anglers use anything bigger than a lob tail or dendrobena to try and catch perch. Whereas I think I might be getting to understand these fish and believe them to be lazy slobs which have grown fat chuffing down leftover dead fish after matches, that are more likely to slowly slurp up a whole massive lobworm than to be bothered to chase a fish around to eat it.

Only thing is with these commercial fish is getting to them, as the list of fish you might have to catch your way through is never ending. The cold normally helps shorten the list by a few species, but when I arrived at a barren commercial pool the sun was out warming the water and carp were boshing out all over. I chose to fish a peg that I had fished before that's got good form in a bottle neck between the two halves of the pool. I like fishing this area as I feel that any perch patrolling have to pass through the area.

Sitting up well back from the edge I set up my fourteen foot float rod with a light float rig and plumbed up carefully to find that the entire area was flat as a pancake. With the lack of features in mind I baited up in a line about four feet long in line with my rod using broken lobs, crushed/whole caster bound together with mole hill soil and liquid worm. With the wind pushing a good tow around the smallish pool I felt the scent of my bait would soon be dispersed at least over a good bit of water. Fishing my float on a very short line from the tip of the rod helped me keep the section of worm I began fishing with tight to the centre of the baited area even with the tow pulling it around.

It was always going to be fifty-fifty on the success front as these shallow pools can fish terribly in the winter months and changeable weather can be the worst thing for them. Luckily it seemed that I had made the right choice for once and quickly something started showing interest in my bait. So began the promenade of various silver fish this lake holds. You would have thought the delicate biting roach would have been last on the list of takers for my large worm section fished on a size eight hook tied direct to four pound line, but no that was not the case. The roach were the first to show up and they were quickly followed by all manner of mixed silvers...

I always feel confident when I am getting bites as I just think it becomes a numbers game before my target turns up. On this occasion though time weighed heavy on my mind and with two hours gone out of the three I was thinking the silver fish might never push off. At this point I went all in, literally! Rather than keep putting bits of bait in I decided to feed hard, leave the swim alone for a while and hope the mass of bait combined with the failing light might spur a perch or two onto the spot. After dumping everything I had bait wise apart from a few hook baits onto the very centre of where I'd been baiting, I left it alone and went off with the dropshot rod I bought along to check out a couple of features.

After spending a short while trying to make a Savage gear 3D bleak look as much like a dying fish as possible in a few choice spots, I returned to my spot baited my hook with the two halves of a split lob worm and swung it onto the spot that I'd been watching all afternoon. What do you know! I watched the float as the worm fluttered down to the bottom, where the float popped up as it did. The float was only still for seconds as the baits arrival had not been missed. Unlike the lighting fast roach bites the float bobbed deliberately before beginning to move away then slowly sinking to the right. My strike found heavy resistance instead of the panic that all the silvers gone into. The fish was powerful but not crazy carp powerful and straight away I knew it was what I was after. Before it was even ready I was fussing with the net trying to get it out of some reeds it was resting on. A brief tussle, a quick slacking of clutch and a big stripy flank rose out of the muddy water into my net.

It was not the biggest perch I've caught from a commercial pool but at well over two pounds it made my day a commercial success and proved that there might be a bit of mileage to my theory that this big commercial perch are still in this venue and that maybe they just need much bigger baits to catch them.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Committed to something big.

My soul yearns to feel that extended adrenalin rush when you hunt for something more special than the norm, for that moment when you hook some unseen monster than pulls so insanely hard that you think you'll never control it, for when you see the fish of lifetime roll onto the surface and the feeling of panic before it's in the net that is so sickening. It's because of this need that I've pigeon holed myself into chasing a true specimen these last few weeks and as the time for river fishing is ever dwindling, it's there that I've sought one.

Three sessions ago I searched for a pike on the Avon. Initially it was a zander but the river was considerably clearer than expected, hence zander became pike. I concocted a plan to fish a winding section of the Avon which is known to hold some very nice pike in the slacker water through winter. I arrived and fished and blanked. By mid morning I'd searched the entire stretch and felt that I was wasting my time covering the ground again with the same method. So I took the dead rods back to car to swap them for a medium weight lure outfit I had stashed in the boot. My hope was to make something happen and at least avoid the absolute blank. Sadly the best I managed in a second pass of the entire stretch was a single follow by a near double figure pike. I watched that fish follow the lure right into the shallows to the point where it saw my ugly mug and shot off.

Two sessions ago I returned to the Avon after some very heavy rainfall to find it looking perfectly coloured for a daytime zander session. This time everything felt so right that I stuck it out zarbelling in a known zander hunting area for most of my session. The only movement on my rod tip was from the last few bits of debris coming down the river and hitting my line. In the end with only an hour or so left to fish I scampered off to a slack downstream. The bait had only been in the water two minutes when the tip nodded positivity. I waited and waited for a second indication before striking at a soft pull which resulted in nothing. The next hour was probably one of the most frustrating times I've had zander fishing. I knew for sure in the big slack in front of me was quite likely a large amount of zander and that if I could get into them it would be just a numbers game before I found a big one. Over the next hour I had run after run, tug after tug and every strike resulted in nothing. In the end, time ran out on me and I had to leave but I feel that should I have gone to that spot earlier I might have been able to crack the finicky bites by ringing the changes in my rigs, as those zander I felt were still just about feeding.

My last session though was by far the most punishing. With two blanks under my belt I felt I needed to head for a bit of a banker location. My old mucker Andy had mooted that he was heading over to Saxon Mill to do some trotting and pike fishing. It was as I pondered all the silvers and predators stacked up above the mill weir that it occurred to me that there should by rights be a few big river perch hanging around all those prey fish as well. So I concluded to join Andy and target the perch instead of silvers and of course it would have been rude not to fish a pike rod as well.

As per normal I was late arriving and Andy was already set up and running a float repeatedly down the river through the area where the larger proportion of the silvers shoal up. The shallower water below him held no interest for me, so I headed up stream a little to the one area here that screamed perch.

Seriously, how could this swim not hold a massive stripy somewhere, it was perfect with the flow decreasing closer to the far bank. The only problem was that the bank above me seemed a little to eroded for me to sit comfortably without fear of it collapsing. So I concluded to have to fish it straight on rather than from upstream a little.

I wanted to keep it simple and cheap. There was no way I was going to be filling the swim in with chopped worm as the huge amounts of silvers would mop that stuff up quickly. So I decided to fish a maggot feeder filled with red maggot's that had a bit of chopped worm mixed in to flavour them up and use half a lob worm a hook bait. 

You know I have never been so confident that something special was going to turn up, when on my first four casts I hooked a quartet of roach bigger than I've caught of the mill in years. Even downstream Andy could make out the much bigger size of the fish I was catching and made his opinion quite clear. It was my blind confidence of the impending big fish that made me not bother photographing anything and just push on and fish. But the harder I pushed the more I changed the situation! More casting meant more maggots going in and that just pulled more fish upstream and even a few inches of lob worm wasn't deterring the smaller silvers from eating it. In the end I had to back off and cut out the feeding which just stopped the bites entirely. It quickly turned into a no win situation as all I was catching was silvers and I figured those prey fish would be that confident to feed if there was any big perch in the swim.

In the end my only hope for really getting my chain pulled was left in the hands, or fins, of the resident pike. Now it's worth saying that I have never fished this bit of river and not had some kind of pike action. Till this occasion that is! What do you know, we never had a single run from two rods fishing different rigs in probably the most pike infested bit of the Warwickshire Avon. I fear that the dropping temperature through the morning may have been a factor in the lack of pike action and even catching a load of quality roach and dace early on I felt once again unsatisfied after committing to catch a specimen. Andy though finished off the morning very well after working hard trotting in the freezing weather all morning and filling his net up with a mess of roach and dace.

In truth I had forgotten what it can be like chasing after big fish. The famines can go on for some time and it seems like sheer madness to week in and week out take that gamble and forgo catching lots of fish for the chance of a monster. I know I will continue to bang my head against this brick wall though  until I feel I've satisfied my need and caught something a bit more special, as after all it's still freezing cold and things have to get better as the temperature rises..

Friday, 27 January 2017

Gear death hell.

That title reads like the name of a bad death metal song and my most recent outing went down about as well as a bad death metal song. Worst of all though it was totally my fault as for days prior I had been planning on going to one venue and at the last minute changed venue due the recent drop in temperature.

I was initially planning on going canal chub fishing to a spot on the Coventry that seems to hold a few nice ones. Then the day before I went over the Coventry early in the morning and saw ducks walking on the bugger, so decided flowing water was going to be a better option. Now, I have been thinking of doing a bit on the LAA Lido stretch as I have heard on the grape vine that the dace fishing is pretty good down there and lots of silvers means lots of predators, which we all know I can't get enough of. But then in a moment of proper stupidity I thought 'oh what about that bit of the Leam above the town. I've been meaning to check that out'. Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew it was the wrong decision, but still I went along with the idea which turned out to be a decision I would regret.

Early in the morning after a short drive I found myself crunching across frozen ground towards the river. The sun had just broken over the horizon and golden light spilled all of the Warwickshire country side. The Leam looked resplendent in golden light with the banks shrouded in a hard frost. Literally it looked like a cold beer on a hot day, it looked that good.

How could I go wrong...

It was pike I was actually searching for, as I have heard the narrow upper sections of the Leam hold some quite good pike. So keeping mobile I opted to fish a large sea dead bait on a float rig in any pikey looking slacks or margin I could find. And to keep myself amused I took along a light lure rod and a load of lures to fish with in between landing double figure pike. To all intents and purposes this was going to be the case; in the very first swim I landed a couple of nice perch on a dropshot rig, my float bobbed a couple of times before moving off downstream. I struck and the half mackerel bait was ripped clean out of whatever took it. Hey ho, what can you do, you don't hook'em all and I had still had those perch...

It was in the next swim it all began going so terribly wrong. With my float-fished dead bait positioned nicely in a eight foot deep margin I happily fished away casting my lure rod all over the swim until I found a snag and promptly snapped off. So I set up again and noting where the snag was, avoided casting there. Two casts later I was snagged and promptly snapped off again. This time after tying on a new leader, new jig head and a new lure, I moved swims.

Once again I got the dead bait out in a suitable spot and started casting around. First bloody cast this time and 'doink', straight in a snag and the result as you can guess was new leader, new jig and new lure gone. So for the third time in less than fifteen minutes I was setting up again. Oh, and I moved swims!

By now I should guess you can see where this nightmare is going, and if not, I won't waste time with every detail. Needless to say over the four hours I fished I lost no less than eleven jigs plus lures, along with leaders and a two dead bait rigs. I was the single biggest lost of gear I have ever had. Worst of all is I couldn't honestly say that I knew how the river was fishing, as I had spent most of the morning crouched in front of my rucksack setting up instead of fishing.

The good thing I could honestly take away from this session is that I know now this bit of the Leam is more snag that water and that I should under no circumstances cast any more lures in beggar! And that's putting it politely...

Friday, 20 January 2017

Go big or go home.

Of all the facets of light lure fishing it's the dropshot that intrigues me most. By that though I don't mean it's the only method I use, as I have grown to understand that every method has its moment and I am just as likely to cast a tiny crank bait, jig or Carolina rig when I believe it is appropriate as I am a dropshot. But all those methods have one single thing in common that the dropshot doesn't, and that's that they are predominantly retrieval methods where as the dropshot to all intents and purposes is generally conceived to keep the lure in one area, or at least retrieved at a snail's pace.

The other day I actually went out with the sole intent to fish the dropshot on a section of canal so rife with structure that it would be easy to think it was built specifically for the method. I had with me pretty much the entire spectrum of dropshot lures, from tiny Mebru shirasu worms right up to E-sox Lobworms, but it was the latter sized lures I intended to use... You see I have become adept at using all sizes of lures drop shotting, and see that by using scaled down tactics, micro hooks and tiny lures you can catch tiny predators all day long. Occasionally these mini methods tempt bigger fish, but honestly in my experience they do lean heavily towards small perch, or wasps, as people seem to be calling them in lure circles.

Now although I do not believe that the bigger bait catches the bigger fish, I do believe that if you offer a fish something that is too good to pass up they will more than likely eat it. It's like when you are trotting maggots on a river; once the fish are focused on the maggots that are moving towards them they have to make an instant choice - grab the maggots or let them pass by where they will be lost. Transpose that onto lure fishing and think of it this way; if you drop a tiny lure into the vicinity of a big old perch on a freezing cold day, if it is big enough to catch her attention then she is going to work out instantly if it's worth being bothered with or not and she might have it, or she might not. Now replace that tiny lure with a lure three inches long and suddenly it's a feast not a snack, and when you're weighing up energy expenditure verses reward, bigger baits have to be better, right.

So rather than mess around with 2lb line, mosquito hooks and maggot sized worms set up with a much larger rig intended to fish big lures. Given that the Grand Union was quite clear I chose a core few very natural looking lures, like the Wave pumpkin Tikki monky which looks rather like a newt, the E-sox lob worm which is a great replica of a lob worm and the now ubiquitous Savage gear 3D bleak to concentrate on through the afternoon.

In the past I have had some great results with the Tikki monkey creature bait, but even after working that hard in every conceivable manner around loads of structure, I had exactly no interest in it. The same went for the E-sox lob worm and even the 3D bleak was striking out fished under the rod tip. At this point the thought occurred to me that although the structure offered cover to the resident predators, maybe they were actually in the deeper water looking for warmth. So I resisted changing onto a jig rig to search out the open water and stuck with the drop shot rig so I could work the lure really slowly across the bottom. I knew there was a good chance I would lose some gear fishing this way in a snaggy area but the risk was worth it.

After casting onto the far shelf margin I gently work the life like little fish down the shelf into the trench the barges carve out. I worked the lure slowly down across and up the contours of the canal until finally I located a willing taker close to my own bank just were the shelf began to rise up. There was no doubting it was a fish, there were no plucks, just wallop, as a nice size perch engulfed the lure.

That same area produced three almost identical in size perch in consecutive casts and showed me exactly how tightly these fish were grouped in the clear and recently thawed and still thawing water.

I had my doubts that the zander might play ball at all in the clear conditions, but after working a few more areas over diligently, I targeted a patch of dead rushes on the far bank. Zander I have found can be very subtle taking lures, unlike perch and pike which seem to thump and tear respectively. I have often thought this might be because they sometimes seem to grab the lure and either stop or move forwards, which doesn't give a definable hit until I reel or lift the rod with something on the end. This was exactly one of those occasions where I felt no hit then reeled, the line went tight and the fish moved, then I struck. Considering how far in the mouth the hook was, anyone would have thought the fish had really hammered the lure which was just not the case.

The rest of the session passed by quickly with me working hard to find localized shoals of perch which all seemed to be lurking in similar areas around the bottom of the near side shelf, and I even found couple more small rouge zander loitering amongst them. My confidence in the 3D bleak lasted all day and every fish landed on this session felt the lure of this realistic replica fished as if it was a struggling injured fish, was too good of a meal to let pass by. 

Every single perch absolutely nobbled it and proved my decision to go big or go home right on this occasion. Although I feel I would have probably caught fish on smaller lures, I don't think I would have caught as many or as higher quality perch as I did. I ended up catching twelve good sized perch of between 20-25cm perch and three 25-30cm zander for a rough overall length of 3.5 meters, which I am led to believe is a respectable length of fish from any canal and happily I lost no gear as well.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Dace chase.

Although I can't rightly remember the first time I fished Saxon as it was that long ago, I do remember that it was love at first sight. Anyone else who reads this and has fished there knows full well it is not the resplendent summer river I talk of, but is instead the bare naked, freezing cold winter that inspires us anglers out of bed way before dawn to secure a good pitch.

Once the temperatures begin to drop before Christmas, the fish from miles up river seem to drop down and congregate in huge numbers above the ancient weir. Any of the ten or so accessible spots above the weir are well populated throughout winter, but the last three in my opinion are some of the best winter fishing spots on the Warks Avon you will find. The only fly in the ointment of this wonderful bit of river that gives so much when the going is so hard, is how little respect is given to it by some of the anglers that frequent it. Not really wanting to point any fingers, but beer cans of all nationalities are always present littering the banks, along with all kinds of rubbish like ground bait bags, old margarine tubs that were probably makeshift bait tubs, food packaging, coffee cups, tackle packets and so much more. 

It incenses me to see all the mess left by people who come here. This bit of water has been and will be an oasis in many an anglers long fruitless winter and really should be respected by those who fish there. Seriously, how much bloody effort is it to take the rubbish away. For me it was a sad day when Leamington Angling Association passed up the opportunity to acquire this gem of the Avon. I feel sure had they taken it on they could have done wonders with this lawless bit of river.

Back to fishing though and it is one species that draws me to these muddy banks, the dace. I have real soft spot in my heart for the dace and there aren't that many opportunities to catch them round these parts. In fact the numbers of them at Saxon Mill does seem to have dropped in comparison to the amount of small roach present, but still they are here and with the plying of plenty of maggots you can work your way through the numbers to root out a few better ones here and there.

More often than not it's the float, or more specifically trotting a float, that people use on this venue. For me though the maggot feeder works best. So in the dark the other day I struggled to thread a loop of line through a tiny swivel atop a small maggot feeder ready for the light to come up enough for me to begin feeding the horde. The light finally came up and I swung out the first feeder brimming with fresh maggots to a run two thirds across the river. The feeder barely made bottom before the tip was bouncing under the attack of hundreds of hungry fish.

It took a few casts to get into the swing of things, but soon I was repeatedly dropping the feeder onto a area about the size of a pool table and with plenty of feed on the bottom, things calmed down enough for me to wait for a solid pull of the tip before striking into a fish. The roach were coming one a chuck and did so for maybe half an hour before I landed a small dace. With this place it's just a case of numbers and I worked the numbers hard all morning, fishing with the rhythm of a match angler until finally I found a few nicer sized dace. 

With this many silver fish present and this much activity concentrated in one spot it is always going to attract some attention and Saxon Mill has its fair share of fish thieving pike. A couple of splashing silvers had been torn from my line and several others had been slashed at through the morning, but these pike weren't dealing with the average dace angler were they. I've fished here so much I know exactly how they attack and I had brought along a pike rod especially for the job.

I fished a small dead roach on a free running paternoster two feet off the bottom in the flow. By mounting the dead roach with a slight bend in it, I could see it moving around in the flow, pretty much like a hooked fish. Using such a cumbersome rig it took a bit of effort a few casts to make sure it was tangle free, wiggling around in the area just below where I was lifting fish from the water and tossing them back. It didn't take long for the bite alarm to bleep a little as the rod tip bent over and the line pulled from the clip of the drop off indicator. After a fierce and frantic battle a solid jack pike was landed, had its picture taken and was released well away from where I was fishing.

The next attacker ripped into the spinning dead bait so hard I barely had chance to blink before line was whizzing off the reel. Luckily I had set the free spool very lightly on the reel or the rod may well if taken a dive into the river. I don't think that fish had the bait fully in its mouth, as after a single run it just seemed to let go.

A while later I saw some odd pike behavior. After answering the call of nature in the scrub behind me I returned and before sitting down I peered into the water. Was it not for an odd pinkish growth protruding from her mouth I would have never seen the decent sized pike lying a foot from the bank in the dead weed bed, but once I'd clocked her head I could soon pick out the other three foot of her. After a while she rose up in the water and swam up stream. Thinking I'd never see her again, I sat and got ready to fling more maggots, but as I bent over to load up the feeder I saw her drift back into the edge from downstream and settle close to where I'd seen her before. This was too good an opportunity to miss, so I slowly picked up the pike rod and carefully drew the bait back in towards her. She definitely saw it, I could tell from the way see moved a little as if to line it up, but then she turned back.

I watched that pike for half an hour as she observed the bait, moved off and returned to her spot. She did this three times and every time I was sure she'd hit the bait when she came back, but no nothing. Then after she moved off again a second slightly smaller fish came moving in quickly. This one was going to have the bait for sure, but then the one with the growth drifted in and the new fish bolted off. Finally thinking she just wasn't into feeding I gave up on her and moved the bait back out into the flow a bit. 

The pike distraction over I began casting the feeder again and happily the silvers were still lined up ready to go. But after a few casts fish came flying out of the water just beyond my casting zone as they were chased by a predator. Quickly I chucked the dead bait into the area and sat it on the rests. I'd not even sat down before something took the bait violently. I struck hard and was soon playing another hard fighting pike. After running me a merry old dance right through where I'd been fishing sending fish scattering clean out the water, I managed to subdue the angry fish into the net. It wasn't a huge fish but it was bigger than the first, and like that fish it too was heavily patterned and certainly well fed.

After releasing that last pike to sulk under a tree in the margins upstream I went back to the maggot feeder to finish off the session. Sadly though that last pike's antics, combined with a clearing sky, had changed the dynamic of the area I'd been feeding. For all my efforts with the last of my bait I only scraped a few more small roach to finish off the session. I wasn't disappointed though after catching literally hundreds of silvers, a few nice examples of my target species and two nice pike. I reckon that I had pretty damn good session as once again Saxon Mill came through on a cold winter morning.