Friday, 28 June 2013

The lake #18 Taking advantage

Not wanting to commit to any night sessions yet due to the still high populations of carp anglers dug in around the lake with their masses of new season hope still fuelling them through blank nights, I find myself just fishing by dropping in here and there to test the water trying to get a good idea of what is going on below the surface on this poker faced water. To say this shallow and secretive lake is like no other place could be the understatement of the century. Considering you would be lucky to find a spot deeper than four feet, the water is so massive that it seems to take a long time to warm up and cools even quicker, hence the bream spawned just before the season started and the carp did so just five days ago.

Only now after three sessions of squeezing in between the myriad of bow taught lines do the bank side populations seem to be falling and I begin to have the choice of swims. Though I am not moaning... as I like many non-carp anglers who frequent the lake have much to thank the humble carp obsessive for. Coombe, as with other waters that are heavily carp fished, has seen an increase in the size of the fish that all that bait is not intended for. The season here on the lake being little more than a week old has already seen the capture of some very special fish... oh and two carp!

Finally with the season seven days old I popped over for a few hours and found the banks practically deserted. I half expected to find a match was scheduled for the following day but it turned out hunger and need for proper sanitation had pulled them away leaving me free to take advantage of any leftover bait. Over the week it had become evident that some decent populations of fish were residing in a large swath of water pretty much centre of the lake. It was from this area that those special green and brown fish were caught. And why shouldn't they have been caught here after all, as it was this bit of water has received focus of the attentions of  most of the anglers, all depositing kilo after kilo of boilies hoping for carp, but in reality feeding bream and tench. So now as the sound of throwing stick drifts off on the wind it seemed a perfect time to take advantage and cast out to see what might linger over the top of all those lovely washed out boilies.

So finally alone and armed with the knowledge that what I sought was in the area hopefully eating old bait, I found myself looking out over an age old estate lake on a typical English summers afternoon. Of course by typical I meant wind gusting to nearly thirty miles an hour interspersed with sheeting rain; a sky that was one moment black and the next pure azure. The rain and changing light I could deal with, but the wind was coming in just the right direction to zip straight down the entire sheet of water, making for some interesting attempts at the seventy yard casts into the areas I had seen being feed.

It turned out to be a real 'wait for a window' weekend. Time and time again I found myself waiting for the tiniest break in the wind to punch my feeders out. Once that was done settling the line and trying to claw back the bow in my line became another job in itself. Then after every cast I was subjected to the the incessant random bleeps as the tow pulled up the slightest slack in my line.

Undoubtedly I would eventually get my line to settle and the buzzer to shut up and then yet another battle began. Shelter is one of man's simple requirements for survival. I used to have this amazing brolly which sheltered me and helped me survive. It was made of super light weight nylon and folded down to nothing even though it was 50"across. That gem is long gone and the brolly I own now is a C.....! I don't use that word lightly trust me. The umbrella in question was only meant to be an interim measure until I sourced a better replacement but somehow through this and that it stuck around and it has turned into the devils umbrella itself. Its heavy and floppy and given half the chance it with flip inside and stab you in the leg doing so. Just trying to keep out of the wind using this stupid contraption of an umbrella became a farcical fight and I am dam sure I heard a guy over the lake laughing at me. It didn't take long for my patience to dwindle and that evil folding devil to be discarded back to the quiver. I then field tested the new Chris Yates MK1 session shelter which in the light rain proved itself amiably

New for 2013 Chris yates MK1 session shelter
Somewhere in the slapstick carry on scene I did actually get onto the fish and it was a new and different tactic that got me some bites. After two or three hours of fishing the only thing to pull on the end of my line was the tow of the lake, and by then I was thinking that it was not going to end well. Knowing any drastic baiting would be foolhardy, I dipped into my bag looking for inspiration and found something straight away. Half a kilo of sardine and anchovy 10mm boilies that were tucked away in the corner and the sight of them made me wonder. If the carp anglers had been just firing out boilies maybe the fish knew the distinctive sound of them hitting the water was related to food.

Before beginning I recast both my rigs with boilie hook baits and a load of chops crammed into the method mix. With both in place I filled my pockets with baits and began slowly raining the boilies all over the swim... Then you would never believe what happened. After fifteen minutes both rods sparked into life even though there were no where near each other. They weren't ripping runs more dithering jangles. The bream had arrived! I did not leave adequate time for the first two fish to get snagged an struck at  nothing but after those I hooked my first Coombe bream of the year.

In my last two hours my buzzers hardly fell quiet as fish bumped into my line rooted around my feeders and sucked up my baits as the browsed over the swim. Two sub adult skimmers and five proper bream got landed that afternoon. The best of which was just under eight pounds and considering most of them were very slim after their recent spawning there was some nice fish amongst them.

It was almost a shame to leave, but I know there will be plenty more bream filled sessions later in the year when they have regained some condition as well as they inevitably stick their noses in when you're not fishing for them.

I suppose the thing that has me wondering now is, was it just coincidence that those bream showed up over those boilies or have they actually come to associate the sound of boilies hitting the water with tasty morsels peppering the bottom. There is no doubt that only boilie hook baits brought fish on this occasion as I tried other baits like corn and worms and they couldn't buy a bite for love nor money. I have seen on other waters when carp have learnt the sound of spods mean food and on bits of river where the sound of hemp hitting the water brings chub out of places you wouldn't think they hide in. But do these bream now know plops mean food and how big can they grow if they eat just about every boilie that lands in this lake?

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

The lake # 17 An adventure on June 16th.

I had been umming and ahhing for quite some time prior to the weekend over what, where and when I should fish on the first day of the season. Both the river and Coombe pool made tempting prospects and I even at one point considered the shotgun start on Coombe, then packing up at lunch time and heading down the Avon to fish till dusk. Sense however prevailed and I shelved that insane idea as after all, I am just one man.
My biggest quandary in this venue toss up though was the crowds. Facebook had been alight for weeks with proclamations of intent as well as statements regarding weeks of pre-baiting, and frankly I wanted no part in this blue cross sale like madness. Before now I cannot deny getting caught up in this fervour, and like many others I have gone out tooled up with half a years worth of bait weighing me down after rising in the middle of the night, to run down to the river or lake and chuck the whole lot in as a fanfare plays in my head! And how often has my June 16th ended up being a rather inglorious phaaaarp. Well the answer to that is far too many times.

So fully expecting my favourite river haunts to have their highest bank side populations of the year, I opted to instead take it a little easy, rose at leisurely hour and drove all of a few miles round the corner to Coombe, with the intention of just squeezing in somewhere and enjoying the day with no real expectations in some seriously beautiful surroundings.

Although I had taken one illicit sneak peak a few weeks earlier and kind of knew what to expect, the sight that met me as I looked down over the meadowland towards the age old lake framed by ancient English woodland was nothing less than resplendent. Hoards of swifts whirled overhead in the blue sky, dropping effortlessly at unimaginable speeds towards the ground before pulling up at the last moment and skimming down the hillside towards the lake. On my slow descent down the narrow mowed, track rabbits of all sizes scattered in every direction. All apart from one cheeky youngster no bigger than my fist who nonchalantly carried on munching on what must of been a very choice tussock of grass.

I left my tackle leaning against the fence while I went to investigate the bank, as on my descent I had spotted many alien olive domes hidden amongst the bank side vegetation. My suspicions that it might be a little popular were correct, though I didn't really care as there was enough spaces for me to squeeze in here or there and try and ply a meagre two rods for a tench or a bream.

In the end I settled not too far from the gate with a massive reed bed to my left and one or two spare swims to my right. Nestled alongside a few trees on a newly mown patch I looked over one of the widest parts of the lake, which shallowed very slowly from the bank. I knew I would not be casting a lot, but the casts I made would have to be long to put me into decent water.

Not long after deciding on my swim I found myself sitting back looking over two rods at the lake on which seemed to sit every possible type of waterfowl, including a gaggle of peeved looking greylag geese whom suspect I may have evicted from the peg upon mu arrivel. A pair of reed warblers busied themselves in the big reed bed as another unseen and much larger bird rooted around deep in the rushes, annoying them.

I hadn't even noticed the time passing quickly as I sat absorbing the atmosphere of being back in this amazing place. Before I even knew it ten o'clock approached, and thoughts of a move began to creep into my head. Another swim that I had seen was free and soon began to seem a better option, for a tench at least. So slowly I tidied up getting ready for an imminent move. The sound of a land rover engine was heard well before I spotted Joe the head honcho slowly drive along the track behind me. I think I must have been the first angler he encountered that wasn't sitting behind three carp rods and he stopped for a chat on our favourite subject, tench.

We had only been chatting for a short while before he quickly pointed out over the water towards a patch of flat water in the ripple where he had just seen a carp roll. Tracking his arm to the area about seventy yards out, I looked just as he said, " line with that bushy tree on the other bank." My mind had hardly time to compute the information that it was pretty much in the area of one of my rods when the indicator screamed into to life and the reels spool began spinning.

'It couldn't be!' was all I could think until the I lifted into a far too aggressive fish to be a bream. I'd have loved to think it was a massive tench, but that carp rolling was just too telling. Trying to keep my cool, the drag was quickly eased to cater to the seemingly unstoppable first run. The fish was a long way out which gave me enough time to prepare for its hopeful arrival close to the bank. Joe reeled in my second rod to clear the path, and not long after I realised it might not be an easy job getting a hard fighting carp to cooperate and come down the channel between the reed beds lining either side of my swim. The thought that if it did not play ball I might be going for a paddle soon became a reality as it swung hard to my right. That was it! I began rooting in my pockets and throwing valuables onto my seat. Wallet, car keys and like were all tossed out. By then the carp had made up its mid that the bank was its only chance of escape and in doing so confirmed I was getting wet...

I would've gone down to just my boxers but never got the chance. Just my trainers were left neatly on the edge of the bank and I stepped in. The water wasn't cold which was nice, the silt however was deep. Six or eight eight inches squelched around my ankles and up my trouser legs, and the stink really made the moment. Years worth of rotten debris and gas bubbling up around me every time I took a step out into the the lake. I must have been twenty feet out from the bank before I got control of the fish and turned it round as it came within feet of the reeds. Of course then it charged straight at me, and I struggled to wind the line back on the spool quick enough. I saw it go past me not far out just before I turned to ask for a net. Joe was well on top of it and the net was already floating towards me. Two little runs and it was over. I had done the impossible and netted a June 16th Coombe Abbey lake carp.

It wasn't a monster but anyone who knows this lake knows that these fish are like rocking horse droppings. Better anglers than I have given years of their lives over to trying to catch one and not succeeded, and here I am on the first day of the new season holding probably a never before caught perfect little mirror carp from one of the hardest carp waters in the Midlands.

That was my first day made in one fish, though I never got to see it swim away as my paddling session has turned the normally rather clear water in a rancid silt soup. It was as we chuckled over the whole farce that I took stock of the disaster zone that was me and my swim. Looking at my chair where were all my valuables now resided and something was missing... Slowly reaching down into my left leg pockets I felt a shape distinctly mobile phone-ish and was about to start cursing when through the wad of now liquid toilet roll I felt the shape was thankfully my little key wallet instead. Luckily my phone had been in my fishing bag when I went for my paddle, thank god.

I think I may have made Joe's day with my little June sixteenth adventure and the capture of the first carp of the season. After shaking my hand he chuckled off back to his Landy and left me soaked from the thighs down standing in a swim peppered with goose shit and oh, what a state I looked.

This might seem totally insane to anyone who reads this but after I settled down and got dried off I decided to make that move after all. The fish I sought were definately not in the area I was fishing, and rather than recast and sit it out again it seemed the better option for me to head off towards that free swim right up at the top of the lake, where I knew I stood a much better chance of coming across patrolling tench.

My journey up the bank was just about as farcical as my little adventure prior to it. The news had already shot down the bank quicker than lighting that a carp had been caught, and carp anglers were all a fluster at the news. Everyone who I spoke to as I passed had heard it and they were flabbergasted that it was me and that I had moved straight out of the sacred spot. No word of a lie I saw at least one chap running off in order to try and drop in the now vacant swim.

Turned out I could not get into the swim I wanted as another anglers line was intersecting it, but I wasn't bothered; the next one along was free so I set up shop in the very first peg on the bank, well away from everyone else, and cast my two method feeders onto a previously productive line a little over half way over the lake where the tench often patrol.

By late afternoon the weather had gone from sunny to overcast and back again. All that had shown interest were two skimmers of a pound each and something that gave me a very promising run that stopped before I could get to the rod. It became what sessions at Coombe are all about as far as I am concerned, waiting! Through into early evening I watched the water like a hawk for all but one hour when I nodded off in the late afternoon sun. As I watched I did spot a tench or two roll out towards the opposite bank but sadly the line in which they were travelling was a bit out of range of my Avon rods.

Although it had not been a busy day bite wise as far as I was concerned it was more than a success with that chance carp capture. To be honest it went pretty well by first day standards and I really enjoyed spending the day on the lake. The fish I feel may of been in a little shock after months of no one on the bank then hundreds of people showing up and smashing a load of bait in hoping to bag a big one straight off. I know it will take a few weeks for the lake to settle down into a new routine and by then the banks will be a more sparsely populated and I will start getting a few nights in. One thing there did seem a lack of however was mozzies. In fact they were conspicuous by their absence! Both of the two swims I fished seemed rather void of any buzzing annoyances. Mind you my new organic insect attractors may have distracted them and drawn them off to their doom, like moths to a flame.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Gently and gingerly does the trick.

When I went back to Snitterfield the other night I had the preconceived idea that as dusk crept in it might be the best possible time to ambush some big crucians. On a more idyllic evening that might well of been the case, but the night in question was less than idyllic by far. The day leading into the night was a real doozie. Swirling winds and interment squally showers had cooled not only the air but the water too.

My first real inkling that a major change had happened was when I dipped a bait box into the edge to damp down some ground bait. The moment my hand touched the water I realised the temperature had fallen by a good few degrees. When I last dipped my hand in the clear water four days prior it was noticeably hot, like an indoor swimming pool. Today, although not shockingly cold, it was much cooler and that alone was enough to rise my suspicions.

When I cast my uber light pole float rig out over the weed the random wind towed it all over the shop and when set over depth by my normal inch or two, the movement was enough to submerge my delicate float. A bit of perseverance resulted in two respectable silver roach, but that in itself was a worry as if the marauding roach were over my bait then the crucians weren't likely to get a look in. A quick change of float was made. A still fine but slightly more weighty Drennan antenna would enable me to hold fast against the tow, whilst still registering those tiny hints of bite crucians give should they be able to get on my feed.

Re-rigged I swung a small cast over the spot, reeled down hard to sink the line and put the rod on the rest. Moments later the float rose a little, the tell tale bottom shot weight removed as a fish mouthed my bait, and in the blink of an eye it disappeared and I go to strike. But the rod never got higher than my shoulder as the fish powered off. As I was setting up the new float I had seen a patch of tench bubbles further down the bank, so I assumed that a good tench had moved onto my bait and was now attached to the end of my line.

Even using a light match rod, three pound line and size 18 to 2.8lb silver fish pellet hook link I thought if I went easy I could maybe, just maybe, land the fish. Moments later my idea it was a tench went out the window when I saw a white belly flash deep in the lake. Now thinking it was a small carp I reassessed my predicament and concluded yes, as long I am very, very careful I should be able to beat a small carp.

Fifteen minutes later my rod was hooped in a very worrying way and my line was singing as it cut through the wind. This was by far a much larger carp than I thought and my little 20" net was looking a little under gunned for the job ahead. Luckily Thad the bailiff was fishing not far around the lake and quick call had him scampering in my direction with a much larger specimen net in hand. 

How I did it I will never truly understand, but after a monumental and very careful fight I finally managed to get it onto the surface after a couple of abortive attempts. Fish always look smaller in water and as it passed over the cord we both exclaimed it might be a bit bigger than we thought. When we took a hold of the net and lifted, it suddenly looked huge. On my diminutive unhooking mat it looked even bigger... quite possibly a twenty. The scales don't lie though and after carefully zeroing the wet sling the digital display flickered between 19.10 and 19.12, before sticking on the latter.

I was in shock for the rest of the session, as was my swim which had not only been smashed to bits by the carp, but I suspect had also been cleaned out by its cavernous mouth. More ground bait and pellets were potted in but as the night drew in I saw no signs of crucians, and the only fish to pull my float under were a few overzealous  tiny tench. Mind you I didn't really care as the thought of that seemingly impossible capture more than made up for the lack of crucians whose activity seemed to have dropped right off with the fall in temperature.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Happy little fishes.

After that jaunt down south two weeks ago looking for big crucian carp I have been left with what I think is a mild case of crucianobsessionaris. Seemingly I can't get the idea of those most gentlest and our only native carp out of my head. I had plum forgotten how much fun and how much I enjoy to catch these little pixies on warm summer days, and once I again cast after them I seem unable to leave it alone.

We are lucky here in the midlands as we actually have quite a lot of access to some decent waters that hold what to all intents and purposes are true crucians. I reckon I can think of at least ten waters within twenty miles of my house that contain them. Some are age old places where a few gnarled old giant,s which are the last of their line, and others have recently been stocked with thousands of bright little discs. One of my favourites though is a bit of a mix of the two. Snitterfield reservoir has had crucians present for many years but the controlling club, Leamington Angling association, have just recently augmented their numbers with a generous injection of new fish, a necessary action of which they should be commend for. You see for some reason the population had seemingly stalled. Whether it was time that got to them and they stopped breeding, or whether it was lack of suitable spawning sights or conditions I am not sure, but the fact was that no new recruitment was being seen in their ranks. So in went a batch of perfect true blood crucians and the effects of this may have been more far reaching than expected.

It was two years ago I think when I last targeted crucians at Snitters, and on that occasion I was fishing a few months after the restock. Now anyone who fishes this bleak yet inviting pool knows on average the water is very clear and on my the visit I now recall it was as clear as I have ever seen it. So much so that I could see the ledge over which I favour fishing. On this occasion after depositing a light bed of fluffy ground bait and a liberal scattering of pellets I amused my self catching rudd whilst I waited for the spot to stew accordingly. I had not even considered fishing the spot when out of the corner of my Polaroid covered eye I spotted movement close to my bait.

What I saw has to be one of my all time top ten fishing sights. A group of five of the larger original crucians slowly drifted along the ledge homing in on my bait and behind them was a massive shoal of tiny new crucians. Although only related by species, the little ones were learning the ropes from the old guard in what I can only describe as poetic passing of the torch.

That day I caught seven of the originals and three of the tiny new fish. The babies were little more than a few inches long and no more than two ounces back then. But by now I wondered how big they might have grown and what of those old fish. Had they all drifted away as old crucians seem to do or what? So Sunday I headed back half filled with the urge to catch crucians and half filled with curiosity to see how those new crucians have done in the last two years.

In the early hours I descend the road leading to the lake and hoped as I free-wheeled down the hill that one of the few pegs I love to fish for crucians here was free. Turns out they all were and so I set up stall in a particular favourite of mine where a weed bed fills the space between the bank and the ledge. For there is no more romantic vision of English summer than a float framed by lillies or weed as it fishes for crucians. I spent my summer holidays fishing like this as a child watching floats on baking days next to a myriad of weed choked ponds fishing for crucians, hence it is a love I think I will never die for me.

Time has passed since my youth and gone is chunky old rod that used to make my arm ache from casting all day, and ultra light piece of carbon nowrests on my knee. Though what I am using  to catch them is irrelevant to me as I become instantly engrossed by the tiny shard of orange float just holding above the water. The first two bites are missed they are that subtle. Then on the third I connected with a fish which straight away makes all the right moves. I love that surging fight crucians make in close quarters. There constant vibration as the move quickly up and down in the water betrays them instantly. So light is my line that I dared not lift this one out and so I overcompensate by netting it, and the first fish of the day is one of the new crucians.

These new fish have at a conservative estimate tripled in size in two years and are now perfect little crucians of around six ounces. Their bodies have grown deep and the silveriness of youth is replaced by deeper gold and hints of black like the older fish. If these fish continue in this vein then it wont be long till they make a pound, and hopefully the few fish with the right genes in their blood and what they could achieve size-wise, might make Snitterfiled the best big crucian water in the Midlands.

As the morning wears on many more perfect little discs of gold get caught and something else becomes apparent. They seem rather happy! I can't say I have ever seen this behaviour anywhere else other than at marsh farm which is also stacked full of crucians. But the still youthful little ones repeatedly jump out of the water all around my swim. Its not like carp whose breaching generally seems for a reason, and its not like the laboured rolling of tench and bream, its more joyous. Like they are doing it for fun because they are happy. I am sure there is some scientific explanation but to me right now they look like kids bombing into a swimming pool.

Around mid morning I am sure I bump off a better fish in a less productive half hour. After topping up the bait and switching to try and catch roach of the top for a while until I gingerly recast on the freshened spot and straight away something is interested. A slight rise and slighter dip is enough for me to strike whilst crucian fishing and on this occasion I was dead on. A similar fight to all the the others ensues but this one put a much better bend in the rod as it leads me a merry dance around the weed. Though it keeps very low in the water and out of sight I know for sure its a crucian. Then I spot it circling through the clear water and I can see its a good fish. Then when it slides into my net I realise it's a decent size fish for this venue and maybe a little above the average size, or is it....

For as long as I have been fishing this lake the old crucians very rarely make more than a pound and a few ounces. This one though is knocking on the door of two pounds. Now either I have by pure chance caught one of the biggest residents on my first session back, or maybe that injection of smaller fish has added a little competition to the older fishes stagnant lives. Having those new hungry usurpers gallivanting all round the place may have actually served to gee up the old fish and caused an inadvertent growth spurt late in life.

Later when the bailiff comes round to check tickets the subject was broached, and low and behold it turns out they do seem to be getting bigger. Though his stories of three and even four pound fish are a little hard to digest and the recent picture of a three pound plus fish that emerged may hint at some guestimated weighing. But nonetheless, this long narrow strain of crucians might well be getting bigger and that thought alone is more than enough to make me start planning one last mid week foray back, to make further float fished enquires into the matter.

Friday, 7 June 2013

The joys of fishing light.

My recent visit to Marsh farm has reminded me of how much fun light gear tench fishing really is. All too often I find myself fishing venues, or swims for that matter, that require me to use heavy set ups in order for me to constantly cast weighty feeders at range. Now don't get me wrong I'm not saying this isn't fun and it certainly is effective, but what I am saying is that the conduit of bite registration that is the buzzer, can remove us as anglers from interaction with the fish. When fishing a float however this interaction is just about at it's zenith and quite possibly at its most enjoyable.

The constant attention required of float fishing can more often than not enable you to see what is going to happen before actually happens. I think it is the focusing on the tiny luminous tip of a float and the surrounding few feet that draws us closer into the goings on in the water. A bubble or fizz, an oily swirl or a patch of colour in the water all serve to pre-empt the inevitable, or conversely, torture us to the point of paranoia over why we are not getting any bites when fish are obviously on the feeding whilst not eating our baits.

Then there is the language of the float, and that is a language that can be specific to any particular water. The myriad dips, rises and slides can indicate which species we are about to encounter before the rod even cuts through the air to finalise the deal. Ask yourself how many times you have watched a float dancing around on the surface of the water and before you have struck you have predicted out loud what the fish is.
I think that this visual translation is what makes makes float fishing so appealing to anglers. I don't think there is anyone who could deny that the sight of float coming alive after it has sat dormant for so long, is one of the most simply wondrous parts of fishing...

It's a hot afternoon and the sun seems the strongest it has been so far this year. Even sitting half dappled in the shade of two birch trees I am unable to totally avoid its burning rays. I know later in the day when the evening approaches the tree line behind me will offer me some early respite from the brightness and maybe to incline the tench to move, as most of the residents of this lake have melted away in the heat of the mid day sun.

One of the only signs of life on the lake come from the shoals of small rudd which ceaselessly move up and down the bank in front of me. They swim endlessly open mouthed gorging on microscopic morsels and every time they pass around my float it shoots up out of the water as they dislodge that tell tale shot from the bottom as they swim through my line in a cloud of silver gold.

Other than the rudd the only fish in sight are a pair of basking carp. Their black shadows betray them as the slowly cruise beneath the surface soaking up the suns warmth. Its the first time this year I have seen them bask here, but if the heat continues I know it wont be the last. I have often been tempted to try and thieve one from the surface, but the shear amount of water birds make that an impossible prospect, and today that as always it is only pipe dream.

My eyes focus back to the foreground and for a moment I panic and clamber my hand blindly for the cork handle of my rod. In the blink of an eye its hard to re-sight the orange float in the ripple. Eventually I spot it hiding between the light water of the skies reflection and the dark water a tree casts long across the lake and again I relax.

For hours I wait and even though nothing happens my attention never wains. I know a trap is set and also know it is set so fine that the merest of movements of that float would betray a fish. It is set so fine in fact that the tiny blue damsel which I can hardly see sinks the float down to a pin prick every time it lands on it. Half straining my eyes and half imagining it, I can see it barely keeping off the water as if stuck on a sinking ship. Then another blue damsel fly comes into its territory it chases it off, which causes my float to rise out of the water and every time I ready myself to strike until it returns and sinks my float back.

Not until the sun becomes hidden by that false horizon does the watery world begin to change. The rudd still gorge as they will well into the night, but the carp have gone. The water birds too have begun evening rituals. Canadian geese noisily take off  repeatedly circling the lake a few times before landing again and now a moorhen has appeared from the rushes and now clicks as it moves into open water. For the first time this year I can hear a cuckoo whooping in the trees on the other bank. The world moves closer to dark and the time is at hand.

The first fizz is slight at first. Nothing more than a hint of different water two feet beyond my float. Then it happens again further off to the right. I can track at least three different fish moving in a pod along the edge of my baited patch. They seem a little standoffish, only seem to wanting to test the water. Maybe the bright sky still perturbs them.

For over an hour I watch them linger temptingly around the free food. I was just getting used to the hints of bubbles when a massive patch of bubbles break the surface all at once in an audible fizz. Either the waiting has become too much for one hungry mouth or an interloper has just barged straight in head down. Now it is business time and my hand grasps cork ready to strike.

The float has risen and fallen many times by now, as multiple fish mooch around sucking in mouthfuls of fishy bait. But not one has been tripped up by my single grain of corn and now I wonder if they might be avoiding it. So, I wonder, should I make that change? I have fed nothing but highly flavoured crumb and corn. Looking down to my left I have two other choices with me. Tiny soft pellets which seem oh so small to me and a diced tin of salty spam which has stewed sweaty in the sun.

I decide I can't trust those tiny pellets so I reel in and bait up by pulling the hook through a finger nail sized cube and just twisting a little before bedding the nook in. The float and meat fly through the air  well beyond the action and I see the meat go into the water still on the hook. I dip the rod and reel hard to sink the line. The float stands very proud of the water and I envisage the fatty meat slowly sinking between those fish and as it does my float again settles until only the florescent tip shows.

Finally it happens! The float first dips as the bait is sucked in. It rises a little at first as the weight is taken of the line. Then as the fish angles back to chew and swallow it,s mouthful my float rises confidently to the point where those two tell-tale shots are way off the bottom, and the float comes four or more inches prone of the water before lolling to one side. In slow motion I watch the line pick up off the water and the rod move into curve in one seamless movement. Then that moment of  pause before panic sets in and the fish streaks off.

Now it's just a case of going softly as is always the case when the poundage of line is outweighed by the poundage of fish. First the long surging runs are quelled by a well set clutch. But once that is over it becomes a battle in the margins were my finger adds fine tuning to the spool and the arch of rod cushions the head shaking. The fight is nearly over once the slapping of tails is heard here and there. Until one final run ends in a gaping golden mouth and my net engulfs the fish I have sat vigil for hours for.

And later when it is dark and I lie in bed, I know the vision of that float rising will be relived again and again, whilst the picture of that perfect float caught tench will send me to sleep with a smile for sure.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

A fine balancing act.

Over the past few years a lot of my blogging brethren and friends have ventured to the hallowed banks of Marsh Farm in search of big crucians. They have all done this as it is one of the only truly viable fisheries where anglers stand a chance of connecting with specimen true crucian. Why until now it is that I have not found myself looking over this meticulous manicured fishery I do not know. But just last week the opportunity arose for me to tag along with Martin Roberts and Jeff Hatt on a foray down south for a mid week session, and frankly it would of been rude for me to decline. 

After an inordinately early start and disconcertingly easy passage along the M25 we found ourselves at the gates to our venue for the day. Only problem was that they were looked and not due to open for another hour as our journey had been predicted to be a little more hassle than it actually turned out to be.

The general look of the day ticket lakes was much as I expected it and whilst waiting for the tackle shop to open so we could obtain our tickets we took a amble around the lakes to scope out possible pegs. Harris lake I think was always going to be where we fished, as according to most information, this was where the better sized crucians reside. But I for one wasn't expecting the sight that met me! At seven thirty in the morning with a heavily overcast sky filled with incessant drizzle and a decent ripple I could see not only into the shallows but right down to the marginal shelf and beyond. 

From everything I had read and heard regarding the day ticket waters at marsh farm I had built up a picture of margin fishing in well coloured water, whereas this looked more like gravel pit water, where the idea of getting a crucian into the margin may have had to involve me getting camo'd up like a sniper whilst hiding in the undergrowth all day.

As I waited in the queue for my ticket my pre-planned tactics seemed all wrong, and seeing a bait fridge loaded with casters I began reforming a different plan of attack. So loaded up with my gear I headed to the windward end of the lake accompanied by Jeff, away from every other angler on Harris. Here I knew it would be hard to contend with the ripple, but my thinking was that that ripple might offer me some cover in these clear water conditions.

The next step was to follow a little of Jeff's sage advice. He had said to me that one of the best sessions he had had here was when he simply found feeding bubbles and fished that swim. So we did exactly that and after locating what looked like a few feeding tench about two rod lengths out I plonked myself down in the swim close to opposite a gap in between two islands. 

It was by no mean an easy start to the session as I struggled to settle. The wind cutting from my right was not only cold for the time of year but also made presentation impossible. When I had set up my rigs before arriving I had been banking on fishing the margin using a pole float to show all those slight touches associated with crucian carp. That rig never got wet and was superceded by a canal dart with a very fine antenna, which too was cast aside after it would not hold position with a hint of line on the bottom and got dragged under when laid on heavily. The next candidate was a crystal waggler which would hold bottom when laid on hard but with minimal line on the bottom slowly drifted with the ripple.

I was losing all hope of getting any where until I found a small Drennan tench float hidden at the bottom of my float tube. This was perfect. The fine peacock antenna was stabilised by a bulbous body well under the surface. The combination of me locking it in place with float stops so I could put all my shot low down the line, and the three inches of line on the bottom was enough to combat the worst tow. Finally I was fishing comfortably for the first time on the session and now bites could be indicated by dips and rises. I was performing a fine balancing act in the worst of conditions. 

With having to fish a few rod lengths out I had to depend on the casters I had purchased from the onsite tackle shop. Normally I like to fish soft pellets for crucians but they stood little chance of staying on the hook in these windy conditions, and the last thing I needed was no bait on my hook when everything already seemed to be against me. My regular catapulting of shells through the air attracted not only fish to my swim.
This cheeky sparrow obviously had many mouths to feed as she danced under my chair all day picking fallen casters here and there.

As I found out marsh farm is not only renowned for crucian carp but tench as well, as I banked fifteen through the day whilst bumping off one or two and getting snapped off by a few as well. But the best by far was this immaculate chuck of a female which gave me a right run around and ended up stuck in a bush in my right hand margin. Luckily for me Jeff appeared just in time to help me scoop her out in a less than dignified manner.

The crucians unlike the tench were a different and awkward matter entirely...! From very early on in the day I suspected their presence in my swim and although that seems a blindingly stupid statement in a lake renowned for them, the fact remains that they were giving little away bar a few different bubbles. Tench fizz is my pornography, it really gets me excited. But those exciting fizzes of bubbles can only be tench. Individual small bubbles rising though is a great sign of feeding crucians, and I had a fare few emanating from my baited patch.

Slowly but surely my constant feeding of a pouch full of casters began to garner me some interesting bites. Even fishing a heavy rig at two rod lengths out I just detect the slight rising of my float. I must of struck at twenty of more hardly perceptible bites and a couple of tench sail aways before my float raised a good inch and half out of the water as a fish mouthed my bait. Half expecting it to slide away attached to another tench I waited, but the float just sat cock eyed and I had to strike. I wont lie and say I did not think it was a tench as it surged away sounding my lightly set clutch. But then low and behold a miracle happened and it gave up, surfacing for a quick roll in the ripple. I had been quite blasé about fighting the tench but a flash of real gold stopped me in my tracks.

It was undoubtedly a big crucian and the sight of it fighting me through clear water really had my arse going for sure. Then out of nowhere it just gave up totally and good as gold slid straight into my waiting net. No self takes were going to be struggled with on this one, so I was straight on the phone to get Jeff down to do the honours. Then who should turn up with him but my good mate Baz who had dropped by as he returned north after doing a job in the area.

Just seeing the fish resting under the water in my landing net I knew it was a PB but how big I could not say as I think crucians are a very hard species to estimate weights of due to their solid deep bodies. Baz though guessed it on the nose at 2.6lb just before it even went onto the scales.

That was it for me. If I did not catch another fish it would have been a great trip. But even after watching that one swim away in the clear water I looked up to see more crucian like bubbles appearing in my swim. For the rest of the afternoon I had them bubbling rolling and rising my float annoyingly just enough for me to strike but never enough for me to hit.

Finally after a slew of tench my float did a slight rise before moving left a little and my strike contacted another crucian of maybe ten ounces at best. This did however went some way to proving that a number of smaller fish were responsible for turning me over. Another hour later I hooked and lost what I am sure was a second good fish before I landed my third and final cute little crucian of the day.

I had set myself a packing up time so as to be ready to go when Martin, who had driven, was ready to go and just as that time neared Jeff strolled over for a chat. After a quick con-flab he turned and headed back for one last shot for a fish. Just as he turned tail a massive crucian came half out of the water only two feet from my spot. The sight of that certain three pounder turned my planned packing up into a very protracted affair, with my float rod staying firmly in position until the very end as I packed up everything else around whilst trying to watch the float out of the corner of my eye.

That big one never did grace me with a biet and nether did anything else. Even with my first experience of Marsh Farm being on a day when everything seemed to be against me, I know I worked hard to fish in a way I am not used to, and this hard work paid off landing me a whole mess of tench and the only crucians that were caught on Harris lake that day as far as I know. As for whether it was worth the long journey down from the Midlands. Well that's simple isn't it! First session there and new PB crucian, whereas on most waters you struggle to find them, if you can find a water that holds them. So yes, I will be back, and hopefully when I do return the conditions might be little more favourable.