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.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Burnham holiday village a carp session broken up.

I write this in some respects to put the record straight, as when I was researching this lake before going on holiday I found very little decent information and what I did find was misleading in many ways. So I hope that this true report regarding the fishing at Burnham holiday village lake (Haven) may help other anglers in the future if they are holidaying at this park.

When I first saw the Lake at Burnham holiday village I thought it looked nothing as I had expected it to. Firstly what the internet had lead believe was two lakes; a match lake and specimen lake, was actually now one lake since the owner had dug through the causeway the previous winter. The old match lake half looked pretty much as most commercial fisheries look with manicured banks, stages and oxygenating pumps. The old specimen lake though was intriguing with copious islands lined with rushes and reeds, open swathes of water and hidden bays. This could have been some quiet corner of a syndicate lake rather than a holiday park pool. Through several hours of searching I had learnt that the main target for most people and myself would be carp, which were touted to grow up to nearly thirty pounds. As for the other species present none of them seemed to exist in any numbers apart from eels which did offer me a second target.

Hour 1
After one of the most horrendous journeys down from the middle where the car window screen wipers could barley cope and after hastily unpacking I ventured out to have a mooch round the lakes to see if I could add any info to my already blurred picture of the place. Really I was hoping with it being June and all that I could spot a few fish moving round to give me some areas to target. The wind though had other ideas and ideas that would be around for most of the week. Two laps of the lake and a liberal soaking was nearly all I could take. After seeing naff all I was about to leave until I spotted a still slice of water in one corner of the lake. Watching it for a while in the rain got me totally soaked, but it was worth it to see what looked like a few bubblers mooching along the edge. Seeing this tiny snippet of a sign was all I needed to deposit thirty crab and krill baits loosely all along the bramble lined margin, with the intention of returning for a early foray in the morning.

Hour 2-4
The weather over night went from bad to worse. Ten hours in a caravan bouncing back and forth listening to the wind doing its best to tear up the copse of trees behind our tin holiday home was a test for the whole family, apart from young BB who slept quite well all things considered. After slipping on my slightly damp clothes I grabbed my kit and ventured out into the still howling wind. 

The lake was basically covered in large inland waves. The wind had swung ninety degrees and was now pushing onto the area I had baited the night before. Luckily a bit of bank side bramble at least afforded me a minimal amount of cover for the rods. Trying to keep things simple I threw out another thirty baits onto a slightly tighter area and swung out a PVA bag filled with chopped boilie and boilie crumb into the centre of the baited area. The second for this session was aimed towards eels rather than carp and was rigged up with a free running ledger boom and foot long armour braid hook link, size two hook and baited with two broken lob worms.

The wind was merciless and the only way I could fish in any way effectively was to dip the rod tips under the water, with my bobbins jammed tight up against the indicators. Quite soon the left hand rod which was the eel line kept sounding on the buzzer, but every strike was met by no resistance. This actually kept me busy for the whole session as I tried various baiting arrangements to try and connect with whatever was pulling my chain as the case may be. It wasn't until I threaded a half a lob on sea fishing style that I connected with a tiny eel... Already the reality of the situation was a lake paved with small eels. Not long after this realization the right hand rod which had been stewing away suddenly sprang to life with a subdued yet steady run. I don't think the fish realized that it was hooked in the churning waters until I lifted into it and drove the hook further home. I saw a golden flank roll in the murky water early on the fight which lead me to believe I wasn't playing anything more than a small carp. But the fight seemed to go on for ages in the shallow corner. After several runs and swimming straight through my second line I finally coaxed the fish towards the net and when it rolled over that one last time I spotted a huge mouth gaping back at me. In the net it seemed bigger as well and it turned out to be a really solid mid double that in another water could have been much bigger.

Hour 5-6
After a day of family fun I nabbed a few hours at dusk. Having re baited the same area with more freebies I went back to try my luck and have a proper go at the eels. In short it pissed it down again, my theory that the lake is rammed with small eels was confirmed, I used all my worms catching about twenty small eels, and the second rod was dead as a dodo. I did however spot several shows in a gap between two reed beds that indicated there was more than one carp in the lake.

Hour 7-8
After yet another rough night I went out to try and track down some fish. If the night before had showed me where the fish were, this morning was when the cat and mouse began. I went into a swim where I could see into a bay behind the reed bed where I'd seen the fish the night before. Early on three fish jumped tight to the far reed bed furthest away from me. The problem was with the wind and my under gunned 2.5lb Nash dwarf rods I had no chance of accurately casting to them. Hence the session descended into me watching fish out of range whilst hoping something unseen might find my PVA bag cast to closer reed beds.

Hours 9-10
A day later not a single fish was seen at all. The silver fish were now moving around and all over the lake I could see small roach and skimmers flipping out of the water. Having nothing to go on I targeted the end of the lake where I'd seen the carp jumping, but this time I fished tight to a very tight to a group of close in islands hoping something might move in between them and find one of baits surrounded by powdered boilies and pellets.

Hours 11-12
My final day on the lake and finally the weather had changed. The sun was now out and as my rods sat silently fishing into the big bay I watched a group of three or four carp rooting round under some snags in an out of bounds area behind the spit I was fishing from. At first I was fishing out to the reedy islands again, but after spotting these carp I theorised that the entrance to the out of bounds bay might be a better place to intercept any fish moving in and out of the area.

A quick move later and I had cast dangerously far into the out of bounds area from the only possible point to a margin with deep snags all along it. The other rod was position on the other side of the entrance in a shallow spot at the end of the wind. Time proved my enemy here and with only a small space of time available I don't think I had baits either in the water long enough or specifically on fish on this occasion. My time ran out all too soon, but on the way home for breakfast I did find a group of carp right tight to my own bank in a marginal reed bed. It seemed the combination of the wind and the warmth had pulled them into this reed bed. Thinking I might be able to get one last crack of the whip later that night I split the remaining bait I had left 70/30 and scattered the larger amount along the shallow corner.

Hour 13-14
What a blow out! I knew those fish would be in that area all day as I went about my business with the family and I was sure as hell I could get one or more of that spot. Now it's worth saying that all week there had been three or four anglers chasing carp around the lake who had all got quite friendly and a couple of guys targeting silvers on the stages on the smaller civilized half of the lake as well. But on my return a new group of chaps had turned up. I walked past their battery of rod pods and sprays of rods pointing to the sky as if they were defending their well worn peg from invasion. I was as I always am, polite, and bid them good afternoon as I walked past, only to get a grunt which I assume is hello in welsh as they seemed to be of that part of the world. Three pegs further round I tiptoed behind the weed bed and slipped into the only safe spot to fish the pre baited spot from. After dropping my gear next to a tree I took what was left of my bait and went to trickle it along the reeds. I'd gone no more than two steps when I saw a lead and leader drop lazily through the air and splodosh right into the reeds. Obviously unhappy with the cast three more attempts were made before the rod was settled into the rod battery and the line tightened so much any passing dragon flies were in danger of dismemberment. 

I really wanted to try and catch a fish rather than kick off. So with no other option I went off to spend my last session trying to track down the illusive carp, which I never did.

I find it hard to make a truthfully honest conclusion about the fishing at Burnham on sea holiday village as the time I spent on it was in exceptional weather conditions and that my time was split into very small pockets which is probably not the best way to get the feel for a water. But! My time and the other anglers fishing the lake combined helps see a better picture though. Of four of us actively fishing for carp only three fish were landed and two of those were under six pounds. I suppose the reality is that if there was even half the supposed fish the bailiff insists there are, between us we should have caught or at least seen more fish. Now I would never go as far as to comment on how big the carp grow in this pool as all I have seen is the one fish I caught, the few I watched in the margin, some jumpers and the few on the fishing shop slide show. And that would indicate low twenties in the lake possibly. There did seem to be a lot of small silver fish kicking around even though I never fished for them they were everywhere. Eels there were lots of though! After hearing from a caravan owner on the lake that the lake has some kind of connection to the river close by it explains the large population but would also indicate that once they want to shove of and breed that any sizeable ones probably head of to the Sargasso. So if I had to give a short conclusion to help other anglers it's this. Burnham Holiday Village Lake is not a runs water, it does contain some carp which could go up to twenty pounds, but there's not massive numbers of them. So if you're prepared to sit there all day everyday you have a chance you might get one, but be prepared to work hard for it. I am willing to bet you could catch a few small silvers float fishing and that sooner or later you will catch and eel. If eels are your thing then don't go there thinking you're going to catch a monster as there's tons of little ones that can get back out to see when they mature.

I hope any of this helps.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Pushing my luck.

It didn't really occur to me that I was pushing my luck a bit going out fishing until I was already ensconced in staring at a sliver of glowing fiberglass a few feet of a reed bed. It was as my mind came out of visualising the events I hoped were going on under the waters glassy surface that I remembered we were going on holiday the following morning and maybe I should be packing or something rather than pursing ghosts on the reservoir. As I had already crossed a good proportion of the county to get here and spent half an hour tearing every sprig of weed out of the area I was fishing using my new weed rake, it seemed foolish to leave straight away. With an early exit firmly in mind, I set about concentrating on the orange tip of my Drennan antenna float close to the reeds and waited for it to make the slightest movement up or down.

Although the bottom of the area I had raked off was liberally covered in very expensive ground bait and a few speckles of corn, I was supplementing that with regular sprinkles of fresh casters. It was this regular feeding which I felt sure attracted the initial slew of nice perch which in this deep clear water give a magnificent account of themselves, fighting hard and deep at first then slowing as the reach the surface. Five or six of these colourful little predators took my triple caster bait as it fluttered onto the deck.

Once the perch capture petered off I knew something a bit feistier was soon on the cards. The first over exaggerated lift was somehow missed but the second more subtle lift of the float was subsequently struck and connected with a savage fish which tore the swim apart. Only a little male tench went this mad and as predicted the culprit did turn out to be a young male full of vim and vigor.

The swim took a good while to settle down after the first fish had made such a fuss. It was nearly an hour before the fish to drifted back in again. The signs were very slight at first, with the float rising a little here and dipping a little there. It seemed most of what I was seeing was probably accidental contact as the fish moved around the swim with tails and fins knocking the line. But being as I was hoping for a crucian carp I did strike at a couple of delicate lifts just in case, but that just resulted in nothing. Trying to hit those early signs of movement on the float proved thankless, so I began waiting a bit longer until both of the yellow lines below the orange tip of the float rose out of the water. The next positive rise was struck and made contact with a very angry tench which really pushed my outfit to the limit and as per normal turned out to be another male.

As the clock ticked down on my session another small tench was landed before I struck into what had to of been a rare carp. One moment I was watching the float wobble a bit, the next line was stripping off my reel far too quickly for my liking. I am not sure how wide this water is, but given that I only had a hundred meters of line on my reel I really didn't fancy seeing if it was more than a hundred meters to the other side. With little to no choice I applied the brakes a bit more and wound down on the clutch. Not long after that the line went at the hook link knot. The suspected carp had cleared the swim upon exiting it and with no time to wait for it to rejuvenate, I packed away whilst it was still light and headed back home to apologize for going fishing rather than getting packing.

Friday, 2 June 2017

The short truth about the cut.

Are canals really as badly populated with fish as most anglers would have you think? The simple answer to that is, no. From what the majority of angling clubs and occasional canal anglers say you'd think certainly the midland canal system was bloody well devoid of life. Honestly I couldn't count on my entire families fingers and toes the amount of times I've heard that all the fish in here have been eaten by the zander, and it's just not true. In fact every time I hear that sentence or the likes I have to stop myself physically throttling whoever said it whilst screaming 'what the effing hell do you think they're eating then you t*$t'.

Undoubtedly the biomass has undergone a change since the introduction of a new apex predator, but the fact remains that zander are thriving and they are eating something to thrive. Gone are the days of bit bashing for 3lb of fish and here are the bag up days where the canals are abound with big fish, as my old friend Phil Mattock here seems to prove every other week by bagging up with quality fish all over the canal network.

What brought me to this micro rant was a session I fished a few nights ago on the cut. Spring/early summer it would seem is one of the best times for silver bream from the canals. It's not that I am an expert or anything on the subject of silver bream, it's just I've seen a lot getting caught recently on other blogs. So I thought this was as good a time as any to try and fill that silver bream box.

So off to the local canal I go with minimal tackle, to pitch up in an area where I have always seen loads of topping fish whilst rubber chucking. I aint the biggest fan of the Oxford but this bit is close to home and is terribly convenient for short evening sessions. After tapping a few mates for info on how they catch these forgotten fish I opted to fish down the track of the canal using 13ft rod almost like a pole. I also set up a Drennan antenna float to fish for lift bites as well as dips. Apart from the super sensitive float set up, everything else was very crude; size fourteen hook, 3lb hook link, and double red maggot fished over a few balls of ground bait.

Much against the common belief I found this section of the Oxford to be brimming with fish of some very interesting sizes. From the off I was into small roach of up to six ounces, which sharply jagged the float under when they attacked the maggots. Interspersed with the roach were a nice helping of skimmers and perch. It was only a matter of numbers before I hooked a better fish and the first one was a nice perch of around a pound,  followed by its mate who was a few ounces bigger. I kept the maggots going in and the fish carried on biting all the way through till dusk.

The silver bream I had gone for never materialized but just as the sun dipped below the horizon my float indicated the first positive lift bite of the session. It turned out to be a very powerful fish that led me a merry dance all around the canal before succumbing to gentle pressure. After seeing a big silver flank I so wanted it to be a massive roach, but the reality was that I had hooked a big roach bream hybrid that had got rolled up in the line. On the scales I registered over three pounds which added a few needed points for the challenge though.

I didn't carry on after that fish as my bed was calling me home after a long day at work. Although it only turned out to be a very short one and I didn't find my target fish, it was a very interesting session. I really had no idea how many fish were in this section of canal, and it proves how wrong the naysayers are when they say there is no small fish in the canals. This session reaffirmed to me exactly how healthy my local canals are. Maybe if the common garden angler spent a bit more of his time fishing the canal rather than commercial fishery then they might start to catch a few more fish out of the canals and then this misnomer that the zander have eaten all the fish might just fade away... what am I saying, of course it won't, because it's always easier to blame someone or something else for us not catching rather than admitting it's our fault.