Thursday, 25 July 2013

The lake #20 Hola tenca

I have been on holiday for a week and when I say holiday I don't mean I was sunning myself on some Mediterranean beach. Though it could be said I was living and working like a Spaniard! With the temperatures knocking close on thirty degrees I have spent my time slaving early mornings and late evenings building a new patio, whilst in between taking siestas away from the midday sun. Somehow I have managed to avoid sun stroke and now have an beautiful new bit of stone sun deck that catches the early morning heat a treat but is perfectly shady come the evening.

Even with labouring to be done I still managed to find time to squeeze in a few fishing trips here and there. Though in all honesty they have been much of a muchness in this savage heatwave. Thrice I visited the Avon in search of a barbel. On the first two attempts I got the distinct feeling I was wasting my time. On one of those sessions the eels, of which I am seeking on another venue but not the river, were so ravenous that anything I cast into the river seemed to attract them. Meat, pellets, boilies were all devoured by them and although one of the many usurpers was a respectable two pounds plus, they inevitably ruined my session. The next time it was bream who would not leave my baits alone and no matter how big the baits were they in the end managed to engorge my bait and hang themselves up.

My best chance I think came when I paid a visit to the BAA stretch of the Avon at wasperton. After arriving and finding the pegs I fancied occupied I opted to fish a large run of willows on the opposite bank around two thirds the way up the stretch. With no one insight I fished right at the top of the trees in a slow but covered swim and was able to tuck my bait under the cover and trickle in bait without fear of having anyone else drop below me. 

It was one of those nights when the conditions felt very right. With the sun gone the air was cooling, and not long before dark crept close my rod tip nodded a few times indicating possible interest. As I crouched excitedly behind my rod waiting for a bite was sure was about to come I caught a rolling thumping sound which seemed to be getting louder. They appeared fast a flash dashing down the field behind the trees and straight towards the willows I was fishing. That old saying of tread quietly meant nothing to this excited string of horses and as they thundered past my rod tip arched over bouncing back and forth as unseen fish scarped out of the swim. 

All that was left after they passed was what looked like a dozy old Irish cob scratching its arse on a tree, whilst I sat agog at what had just happened. By waiting till well into dark I did scratch a couple of tiny chub which came back into my swim as the dust settled.

Though I considered other outings the only firm plan I had made was to do the night at Coombe again at the start of the weekend. Eels once again my target species I trudged my kit around to the early pegs on the Lindley bank. It's not a long way, but it ain't an easy way either! Even with a well mown path the general unevenness of the ground topples even the best stacked barrow. Hence I carried my kit in two trips.

After a fruitless previous visit on a different part of the lake, which in hindsight I think may have been a little featureless, I set up in a the more feature filled narrow section of the lake hoping it might be a little more conducive to eel fishing. Just down the bank was an excited carp angler who upon arriving had found a large group of basking carp in residence and who informed me the area was alive with fish of all species. This seemed just right to me a duly I set up slowly aiming to cast out an hour before dark.

It turned out to be another duff night of eel fishing although I have to say it was by no means quiet. Having made the decision to only fish worms I soon discovered much to my annoyance that the large numbers of fish out in front of me were all determined to eat my bait, no matter how small they were or how big my baits were. From the moment I cast out till the time they had pecked my worms to bits my bite alarms constantly bleeped. Fishing baits off the bottom made no difference and by two in the morning I had been casting repeatedly all night and all I had to show for my efforts was a single shocked bream.

With wanting to catch no more than a forty winks, I in the end gave up and left them to the worms until the buzzers fell silent. After awaking naturally around six I decided to recast and let the rods fish until I was packed up ready for home. Once again the buzzers began and disheartened I began to strike camp. But! Just as I had my head in the shelter folding up my bed my left hand rod sounded a slow but constant take. Its always the way it is just as your about to leave something takes an interest.

I don't think I could believe my eyes when the small but determined fish surfaced out past the reeds. It was another Coombe carp. Anyone who does not know this lake will think me a little mental for getting excited by such a small carp. But quite truthfully I have heard of carp anglers fishing for years and never catching one and here I was with my second albeit a tiddler.

As I travelled the short distance home the presence of all those fish kept coming back into my head. On the session I had just fish they were no more than an annoyance. But if I was to return with lighter set-ups and if they were still in residence, maybe I could make a little hay whilst the sun shone. It is not that often that you find this water coloured up and with fish willing to feed with such gay abandon in day light hours. So I decided to return to the area within twenty fours hours with a good nights sleep in between.

The day between the two sessions bought to light an uncomfortable truth I hadn't realised! Not being a massive fan of mosquito repellent I try and avoid using it where ever possible and instead rely on mosquito nets and staying well covered where possible. I had as far as I was concerned been very diligent on this occasion. Turned out I hadn't been so careful as I first thought... No less than twenty seven red lumps arose all over my body. My left hand which must have been uncovered for some time well led the way with eleven bites all in a row. Some horrid critter had even bitten me through my trousers which I didn't think was even possible. But far the worst of all was a single bite just under my left eye brow which I suspected might be troublesome and was, as you will see later.

Sunday morning I returned and luckily no one had moved into the area. Maybe the news a carp had been caught hadn't got around as normally one whiff of a carp coming out and the carp lads are running for the area. I even got back onto the exact spot and even dropped a bait onto the same clear patch I had found in the weed a day ago.  

Not wanting to over do it I baited one long and one short spot lightly and plopped a method feeder on each. Initially I fished popped up corn on both rods but from the general liners and nudges on the feeder I was getting I soon switched over to bottom baits. Fish were topping all over the area and soon enough the bream turned up and I landed three well conditioned fish up to seven pounds. The last of which I did a self take of. It was after I had recast and went back to have a quick look a the photo that I realised my left eye was more than little swollen.

After seeing that picture I suddenly became aware that my eye was well on the way to closing up with the swelling and maybe I might need to seek some attention before it got much worse. That was until I had a screaming run on my inside line. That run came to nothing but that combined with a tench rolling over the fresh cast bait confirmed I would take my chances and stick it out for a little while longer.

There was certainly tench around and the were certainly driving me crazy fizzing all over my baits whilst not taking a single one. Desperately trying to garner a hook up I went through the entire choice of baits available to me until I finally switched to the last few remaining lob worms I had from my ill fated eel session just passed.

Whole or split worms got interest but never produced. It wasn't until I cut a worm into small sections and threaded it onto a hair rig that I cracked the problem. It was only skimmers that fell foul of this rouse first but just after I decided it was my last cast three different tench fizzes surfaced all at once and I held off leaving...

The bite was one of the worst I have ever had jingling the bobbin up and down a few times and when I struck it felt like a skimmer had once again got hooked up. Half way back, which wasn't far at all the fish increased power tenfold causing me to quickly loosen my drag. A big swirl on the surface changed my mind on the culprit and I then suspected a small tench. It did a pretty spectacular run at the reeds next to my swim then turned and swan straight at my already submerged net. The fight had only been seconds and suddenly it was over the net so I lifted quickly shocked at what had just eased over the cord.

"eeeh!" those were my exact words as I looked into the net. I wasn't long but it was like a breeze block across the shoulders and when I lifted the net it was satisfyingly heavy. Then on the mat it was so deep and perfect I could hardly believe my eyes or eye for that matter. There has been reports of some big tench caught at Coombe this year and I saw a few swimming around the season just passed but this looked huge. Then when the scales stopped flickering I was really pleased. A new PB tench of 8.2lb and the fact that it came from this rock hard water and it was so perfect made it so much better.

I never cast out again after that as even though the fish looked amazing in the photo my eye seemed worse. So after packing up and yomping back to the car I headed off to spend the rest of the afternoon at the walk in centre waiting to see a quack to get to treatment for my eye.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

The lake #19 Warm summer nights and baking summer days.

I fancy that Coombe pool fishery holds some monster eels. How can't it! It's a prime looking bit of big eel water. The only thing it has against it is the overflows exiting the lake. These two escape points could give any eels present in the pool an easy exit from the lake, thus so turning what I wish was a prison where trapped eels could balloon, into a... say hotel, where they can live the life of luxury plumping up on the veritable larder available, before slipping over the spillway once the itch to head off on a one way trip to the Sargasso takes hold.

For now though I am going to assume that this lake does in fact hold as yet unseen leviathan eels thicker than my arm. And why shouldn't I assume this as I know for a fact at least two eels reside in the lake as  I relocated them after finding them languishing in one of the drains. But these are not the only anguila-like leads that I have encountered over the last few years whilst fishing Coombe. Only two weeks ago reports of a four-pounder being caught from an area which looks very eelish graced my ears, and last year a trio of carp anglers reported nightly harassment when fishing with blood worm flavoured boilies at range.

All the information seems to point in the right direction and my gut feeling is that this lake has to contain more than just a few surprises. So all that remains is time - time spent on the bank waiting for a big old eel to sniff out my baits in the dark of night and rouse me from my (more than likely) dreams of eels.

The opportunity to do my first night had been a little pragmatic in arriving. You see whilst trying to work full time and fish part-time, I am at home removing and replacing what can only be described as a galleon worth of decking boards which make up the patio right outside the back door to our house. Its a beastly job, and as the good weather is here to stay and the impending date for the delivery of the new materials marches ever closer, I find myself lacking in time and excuses to sit lazily bank side waiting for night to approach. This in mind the ingenious idea to just actually sleep on the bank entered my head. 

It sounds perfect doesn't it? Get my gear ready the night before, go to work for the day, come home have a quick feed before back in the car with my gear head down the lake. Bait up/cast out then get my head down for the night, maybe land an eel here or there, then pack up head home and work in the garden all day ripping up bad wood...

Turned it was never going to be that easy or go that well. After huffing and puffing all my kit into the car I arrived at Coombe already sweating like I was wearing a fur coat in the Kalahari to find hordes of cars in the car park. By the time I had walked the bank, located an area full of small fry I fancied and packed my kit down the water side the sun was already worryingly low in the sky. By then I was in no mood to have to do what I was about too. But the gallon of wretched dead maggots wasn't about to spomb itself out any time soon. To top it all off the flavouring I was adding to the dead maggots is quite possibly the worst smelling additive invented my man and after I had sent multiple spombs onto two different spots the entire bank was humming with flies attracted by the stench.

Eventually after much business I found my toiling done and with one rod cast onto spot  far out in the lake which was liberally baited, and a second spot only a few feet off the bows of an oak tree which caressed the water, I went round to chat with and apologise to a very nice chap called Dave who I knew from another lake we both fish and who was bivvied up for a night of bream fishing just down the bank. 

Really I held no hope that anything would be forthcoming until the lake had been shrouded in dark for a good while. So when my inside line went off like a rocket just after dark I was little more than surprised. It never bleeped or stuttered once before melting off and forcing me to sprint through the narrow gap leading back to my swim. Even the excitement of a instant one toner could not override my expectant excitement of what might have consumed the quiet literally humongous ball of worm I had attached to my hook. Honestly how many fish are big enough or tenacious enough to consume four large worms cut into quarters before being threaded onto hair and hook?

The answer to that question so far is one... and a tench at that! some how this greedy male had been grubbing around over my lovely eel bait when it came across my golf ball sized bait. Where it proceeded to cram it in its mouth along with my size 2 hook and 40lb hook link.

Although it  was probably not what you could call a sporting fight on fifteen pound line and my three  pound rods, I should count myself lucky of the action considering the night ahead.

The warm night passed with little disturbance from anything under the water. The creatures above the water were a different matter entirely. As I tried to calm my mind and get to sleep the little owls began a a lake wide conversation. I then heard what sounded like a daddy long legs buzzing on the roof  of my bivvy only to discover when I turned the light on that it was in fact a mosquito that looked like a prop from Jurassic park buzzing around my head. After a few hours sleep I was roused by three beeps on my right hand rod which after I hovered over it for ten minutes came to nothing and was followed by Dave getting a run from a nice bream. By now it was three so I decided to recast both rods just in case and after doing so a pair of tawny owls began hooting in the woods over the lake which was followed by a male muntjac deer barking for a while. Some how I did manage to get back to sleep before the dawn chorus began.

By six the sun was already up and getting very hot. The lake was flat calm and from my bed I had a good view of a large swathe of it. Surprisingly nothing was rolling anywhere in sight and that's when it struck me. All night even with a load of bait spread over my swim I had not had a single liner on my long line which was fished taught and popped up of the bottom. The bream should rightfully have driven me mad passing through my swim but nothing had seemingly moved through it.

As I packed up for an early exit the carp anglers started stirring and news came down the bank that it had been a very quiet night all over with My tench and Dave's bream the only action all over the lake. I think the closest I may have come to an eel was that three bleeps in the night. I also think I may have gone a little over the top for just a single night by putting out all those dead maggots. Next time I think I will be a little more frugal and try fishing an area with a few more features rather than targeting an area full of prey fish

Through the weekend the temperature soared as I slaved away sawing old decking boards into manageable chunks. Always in the back of my mind I fancied I might have another session. But the savage sun made the prospect of even a short session at Coombe seem pointless. So instead I opted to link up with Andy and head down to my old mate Lanny's lagoon to do the only thing that seemed a viable prospect in the near thirty degree heat, surface fishing.

We weren't disappointed on arrival either, as close round the island was black with carp. By the time Andy turned up I had already bagged three powerful commons in three casts, fishing a free lined hunk of crust just off the massive patch of scum collected in the corner of the lake.

Sometimes it's just fun to leave the challenges at home and just head out to have a laugh with your mate whilst putting some serious bends in your rod. Which was exactly what we did bagging countless commons and mirrors, with a few strange hard fighting little wild carp mixed in for good measure.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Old rivers.

Rivers by nature are reborn all the time. Courses change over time, the winter floods wipe them clean and change their features year on year. Though most places will look similar there are undoubtedly changes that can be seen if a lifetime is spent walking their banks. On the other hand there are places on most rivers that through time, stand still and hardly change at all. These spots that never seem to change have a strange feeling of age about them, and the stretch I had chosen for my very first trip to the river of the new season feels old, very old indeed!

Ask anyone who fishes Saxon mill and they will tell you that once you cross that bridge and step onto the ancient cobblestone path you undoubtedly feel as if you are stepping into history. The graffiti alone reveals just how long the weir has been channelling that water into the weir pool and just sitting next to it, the notion of how many other anglers for hundreds of years sat in exactly the same spot before me, doing just the same.

I don't know exactly what it is that causes that distinctive smell that weirs produce, but I do know that smell is food for the soul of the early morning angler. Later in the day it dies away as your senses become accustomed to it, but by then usually the mystery of the turbid waters takes hold and you become immersed in your surroundings as you try to fathom where, in such a complicated environment, might be best to drop your bait. 

I think it is mystery that draws us to weir pools. Its obvious what sort of fish we seek in what areas of them, but you can never rely on what you know with a weir pool. You might cast into a slack hoping for a carp and catch a tench, or run a float down slow water looking for a roach and catch trout. Either or any way you never quite know what will come next and this is the mystery that draws us to them.

It was that mystery that turned my head the other morning. I should have walked straight on by after looking from the bridge on my way to my intended spot, but I just could not do it as the lure of the weir was just to much. I just  had to have a go. Ask yourself, could you walk by when it looked this good...

'Just a quick cast then on I go' I told myself.  'You probably wont get a bite' I said in hushed tones trying to reassure myself I would move on as intended. Then moments after the lead found hard bottom; tap tap bang! A small chub engulfed my meat. That sealed the deal, I was staying a bit longer than one cast. The next one again found a lovely clear spot towards the tail end of the run. With tension on the line and the random patterns of flow tugging gently at my rod tip, I sat back to wait. 

It didn't take long for a single knock to indicate a little interest and sit me upright in my seat. Even knowing a fish was around, it still came as a shock as the rod buckled over and the spool began to spin. My strike met solid resistance and hooped violently over. I cannot and will not deny verbalising my thoughts out loud to myself that I had hooked a barbel. However the initial violence subsided and when no savage runs were forthcoming my hopes of a barbel, or a carp for that matter, faded.

Whatever it was, it was giving me some serious stick in the powerful water and I had no idea of its identity until it seemed to pull backwards. Cursing myself for forgetting, I remembered this had happened to me before many years ago on the first peg downstream of here; the same situation only on the first day of the season, and that day it turned out to be exactly what I now suspected this was. A big river eel.

Two casts into the Avon and I was going to get royally slimmed up. If it wasn't that I actually quite like catching eels I would of been livid. With my expectations adjusted I was very happy to see a thick green body spinning in the current attached to my line and this one, like the other, was no boot lace ether.

Self takes are not easy at the best of times and self takse holding small eels are impossible. Trust me I know from experience. But once they get above a certain size eels seem to behave not too badly on the bank, and this 2.7lb one was almost cordial as it lay in the folds of my net in the long grass. The hook was right in the centre of its bottom lip and once that was out it kept quite still as I gently lifted it up for a quick picture.

I don't know why I cast again. I know that normally where there is one there are others, hence my next cast ended much the same way only with a smaller eel on the hook and that one ruined my hook link irreparably. That did move me on.

My next intended port of call was the very first peg of the downstream section and the very place that I had been duped before. Even though I knew there was a chance the same might happen again I still ventured forth as other more special fish have grace my net in that spot. I had not though taken into consideration how much time might have changed this swim and after forcing my way through the head high nettles and cow slip, I was confronted with a much altered swim that seemed not to be a good option, with a large log only a few feet out and dead centre of the swim.

With little choice I carried on downstream using my seat like a shield to defend myself from nettles,  trying to limit my already growing collection of stings. The only real option for a cast was right at the bottom of the run where the river breaks hard left at forty five degrees, in a swim known as tramps corner. Its a bit of bleak place as its name implies. Most of the chancers and poachers that sneak a cheeky day here spend their day drinking Special brew or Tyskie under these trees. Apart from that its not a half bad swim; carp and tench often can be seen in the shallow slack on the opposite side of the river where lily pads grow out of the flow.

My first job was to scatter a liberal amount of pellets into that slack to hopefully get any passing fish to stop and have a feed. Whilst that brewed away I amused myself by fishing worms for perch just off the flow. In the past I have had some decent perch from this swim but I don't think I, or anyone else, has ever seen the true potential this swim has to offer.

A few casts in and the perch dutifully turned up, possibly attracted by the maggots I was distributing upstream or maybe by the flashing of silver fish intercepting them as they fell. After an hour I was building the swim up nicely and the fish did seem to be getting bigger, up to a pound and a half. Then out of nowhere there was an awful commotion and the swim erupted with dace flying in all directions. At first I suspected a pike had arrived which is not unusual here, but the the worst culprit possible popped out up right over the spot I was saving for later. A huge cormorant with a white throat bobbed up with a still wriggling dace in its beak. It pancaked, flapping desperately to get airborne just as I was scrabbling for a projectile to throw at it.

That was it for tramps corner. Every fish had scattered in a panic to get away and my once highly active swim swim seemed dead as a dodo. Going downstream where it had emerged from seemed a senseless move and with the two upstream pegs not much of a better option, the weir or higher seemed the only prospect. Just as I packed up Baz let me know he had turned up to trot on the mill race so my only option was the still free weir pool.

Luckily no one turned up as I raced through the undergrowth, though once ensconced again Baz did come down for a chat as the white throated bugger had circled the field, landed above his swim  and pulled the same swim ruining ruse to him. As for the weir, its time had passed and not much action was forthcoming at all on my meat line. The last hour saw me contact a slew of beautiful perch fishing a light rig out in the slack area but as for the chance of anything big, I did not hold out much hope.

A few months away from the Avon and I had forgotten how fickle it can be. If you're in the the right swim and the fish are on the feed you can bag up, but it does seem like when its low and clear as it is right now, there is only a small window to catch. Add a few predators into the mix and and the fishing can be over and done with in the blink of an eye.