Friday, 24 November 2017

Have a kipper on me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 17 November 2017

Sassy sargents and river crocs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 3 November 2017

Pure and utter filth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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