Thursday, 24 April 2014

Fish eye #5 Whiting

Small whiting caught from the North sea on a calm day.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

A billion biting mouths and a PB.

I've been trying to get back into the swing of things at work for a few days now, but I am struggling. All I can think about is the sea and sea fishing. A week or more ago I was concerned with little more than what time I could be bothered to get up to go out sea fishing, or possibly at a push what sort of delicious bacon I should buy from the local butchers to eat for breakfast after I'd been sea fishing. You see my comfort of being in that nosily silent strip of shingle and sand at the very edge of the land just grows all the time. Right now I could, from a fishing point of view,  probably give up on rivers and lakes and give myself to the sea... and surely you understand why when it looks like this around dawn.

Mind you, saying that I am not so foolish as to think that it's all rippling sunsets and dawns. I saw first hand how violent it can be. A beautiful golden beach myself and JB have in past walked on was there last time we went east, whereas this time it was quite literally gone! And I mean gone!!! Some eight feet in depth and a few hundred in distance feet between the sea wall and high tide of pure sand was just stripped away. All that remained was a compacted shingle and mud base. The sea had been so violent when it reclaimed this beach that it tore three hundred pound blocks of stone off the sea wall and left a massive stretch of the coast unsafe to walk upon. As upsetting as it is to see the possible violence of the sea I do find it quite exciting and the openness of it also allows us anglers to be a little violent with it and give it some as well. Unlike fishing on some of our crammed inland fisheries, when fishing on the sea can really let rip! In fact you need to have a good go to get on the fish sometimes.

For once I hadn't made any effort to find out what if anything was onshore before I arrived and my first enquiry at the local bait purveyor really set the tone for the coming week. Quite simply after inflating his cheeks and exhaling he told me that there was lots of fish and plenty of action to be had BUT! hardly anything worth keeping. To any non sea anglers it might seem a bit alien. Although just catching is important the underlying aim of most sea anglers is to catch fish that are legal to take and in a few case ones that aren't. That was a hard thing for me to get my head round at first given the highly publicised plight of our inshore fish stocks. But given time I grew to understand that if every sea angler in the UK took every fish they caught they still wouldn't do one percent of the damage that a single trawler can do in a year. So as long as what they take is legal, which a very high number are not, it's OK.

Given my new information on the current catches I decided to have a tester session to see for myself what was around and so purchased myself a few hundreds grams of rag to how best approach what was around.

As always the guys on the ground proved right and after firing a three hook flapper rig loaded with rag not far beyond the low tide mark my rod tip began it's week long vibration. There was fish here there and everywhere and every one wanted my bait. When you get this sort of instant reaction sea fishing you know it's going to be a busy sort of week casting wise and I was glad I'd opted for a single rod, as fishing two in conditions like this gets expensive when you're buying bait.

From the off a steady stream of pouting, whiting and codling obliged and after only three casts I changed down to a two hook flapper to conserve bait as these plucky fish were consuming everything I could cast out.

Sure enough it was like there was a billion biting mouths out beyond the foot high waves and in the sea even the most innocuous little fish has teeth.

By mid week I was getting a little bored of the same size and shape of small fish and in the best possible way was getting a bit repetitive. One thing that had kept me amused was the flocks of Turnstones which work all along the beach I was fishing.  These tiny forgers spend all day doing as their name implies turning over stones looking for tasty crustaceans and insects to eat. Every so often they for no apparent reason all take to the air and fly in a circuit out over the sea like a group of fighter jets than land back maybe ten feet from where they took off. Only one time did I see them doing anything different and that was when a whole flock stopped their rummaging and simply went to ground almost disappearing from sight amongst the shingle.

I needed a change of plan to kick start me. So after hearing that there was apparently a few dabs showing amongst the other fish I decided to change bait and rigs to try and get amongst these prized eating fish. 
Now they might look pudgy and juicy, but the lug worm I changed to are not only are a little bit tougher than the soft rag worm but also are a good choice if bass are about in this area, and when also stale are reputed to be a very good dab bait locally.

The rigs to were swapped from multiple hook flappers to gaudy flat fish rigs with flashing blades to hopefully attract these predatory yet greedy little flatties.

So the rest of the week I worked hard trying to search out a few dabs amongst the hungry horde. I would love to say it was instant success but it wasn't and with only a day and a half left I finally found what I was after.
You know when you have a flattie on as the rig seems to drag even worse than normal. I can only assume it's the bottom hugging profile of the fish that causes the receding waves to force your rig down as it's retrieved. But eventually I saw that white underside roll in the surf. I only got one but it was worth all the effort to find that single different species amongst the others.

The unplanned finale

Friday morning came all too soon and almost poetically I ran out of bait towards the end of my mornings fishing. I wasn't that bothered as even with a bit of a lull mid-week I had actually had a really enjoyable time and for once it had had been catching all the way through the holiday. Even travelling back to my temporary home I was happy to finish at that point, so I was thrown a bit off kilter when JB said she wouldn't mind spending one last afternoon by the sea.

With this free and totally unplanned finale on the cards I decided that maybe this was the time to gamble for a big fish. All week I had persisted with the small stuff though on at least one occasion I had suspected a bigger fish might have snatched like a pike does at one of my tiddlers as I reeled it in. There had to be something big around feeding on this bounty of small fish. So that in mind I made and investment and picked up enough peeler crab for a few hours fishing that afternoon.

The beach was still sunny when we arrived but the wind had turned slightly from a westerly to a north westerly and was tearing down the beach. Straight away I thought our last trip to the beach was going to be a tough one for JB. With no form of shelter we headed towards one of the sets of groins which divide the beach hoping one of the bigger pilings might afford some shelter. Even curled up behind the post on my seat the wind was battering JB so once I'd sent a bomber rig out clipped up to a 6oz lead I did the chivalrous thing and perched myself on the top of the post to deflect the wind round my better half.

The first cast yielded naff all apart from gnawing teeth stripping my bait away. But the second produced a alright codling which despite its' small stature managed to dislodged the lead and slacken off my rig totally.

I have had for a very long time one of those wonderfully simple bite indicators sea anglers some time use. Basically it comprises a crocodile clip a spring and small bell that are all soldered together. Given that I was a bit away from my rod and not exactly paying attention as I sat on the post I decided to clip this indicator on to inform me of any unseen hits.

I was shocked when the little bell started tingling away after twenty minutes. I looked up to a sight I am not used to sea fishing. My rod was bending over quite extremely for a beach caster and the butt was rising out of the sand as something tugged hard on the line. It was about then that I nearly turfed JB off her seat before I proceeded to do that thing cartoon characters do when they seem to run on the spot unable to get purchase on the floor.

Thank god I got there before it came off and when I lifted the rod I felt the lead breakaway very easily. But even with the lead free I could feel a large amount of resistance. I will openly admit I've not caught that may good fish sea fishing, but I have caught enough to know they ain't easy to get in. The way I can describe it is imagine you hook a three pound carp on light tackle; it's not a roll over fight and you have to think about it. Well add the tide trying to tug it back and pulsing waves tugging on your line the whole time and you're about there.

With a slow and steady pressure my prize was gradually coming in. Saying that, I did have to follow it along the beach as it kited against the tide. I was well away from original position when I saw a flash of white in the wave and that convinced me I had a bass on my line. But then it rolled over in the next wave and I saw a mottled golden back and the following wave deposited high a flapping proper cod at my feet. The rod was dropped and I went after it like a kid after a mudskipper before the sea grabbed it back.

I did have a set of scales with me and could have weighed it but I was more concerned with getting a photo of it. I couldn't put an accurate weight on it but just for the sake of it I reckon it was around four pounds and certainly a new PB. Luckily there wasn't any other anglers close by as what I did next would have flipped them out... I let it go! Sure I could have bonked it on the head and eaten it but we'd already been to Marks to acquire tea, and anyway I would have done this fish a disservice if I'd tried to fillet it. So hoping to bank a little karma I sent my new PB cod back to swim another day.

The luckiest cod in the north sea.
You would think after a week of fishing at least once a day and sometimes twice a day I would've been done. Well I wasn't! Even hankering back to the sea from as far away as you can get from in this country I had plans afoot to kick off my tench fishing season with a warm up session on Ryton Sunday morning. All I can say about that is that it turned out the tench rigs still work, the new alarms are all good, my tench rods felt like casting match sticks after using a beach caster for a week and I landed a couple of these which is always a good way to start a new campaign.

Friday, 4 April 2014

A colourful christening goes a bit wild.

I had, up until the other day, for some reason been working on the premise that this was a 53 week year. Why it is that I should have added this extra week I don't exactly know...maybe it was just wishful thinking! Anyway I had it in my head that I had an extra weekend prior to the mother’s day weekend and had been making plans to go tench fishing, when in actual fact I was fully booked to firstly work like a dog on Saturday covering for my boss and secondly to go out for dinner with my mother, family and Grandmother. The latter of who would never forgive me if I welched on this dinner date.

So my plans to hunt tench were sunk like the Belgrano, and thus I found myself in that situation we all find ourselves in from time to time and was racking my brain as to where exactly I could cram in a short fishing session during an otherwise busy weekend. My one ray of light was that the clocks went forward with the archaic but still used daylight saving time. For once I was actually glad we still do this in England as it would enable me to go out with the family and still be able to fish right up until eight o'clock at night.

I might have in reality had time for a quick tench session but really I didn't want my first go to be so rushed as I would like to savour a good six or more hours scanning a pit for bubbly signs. So instead I took the opportunity to go out and test one of my latest acquisitions. A few weeks ago at the Midland carp and course spectacular I purchased a nine foot NASH dwarf rod. For anyone who is not aware of these rods, they are part of a very clever range NASH has come up with. Rather than a standard twelve foot carp rod that comes in two sections they are nine foot rods that still come in two sections, but the top section is three and half feet long as is the butt section, but then butt section is telescopic and once extended takes the whole blank up to nine feet.

When I first saw this new range of rods the idea alone seemed very attractive. Then I saw one in the local tackle shop and they looked just like a slightly shrunken carp rod. But when I found them on sale at the tackle show for forty quid there was no questions any more. I'd been looking for a stalking rod just to keep in my quiver full time just in case and given the tiny amount of space this rod takes up it was a done deal.

I am lucky enough to fish on a pool which holds a decent head of carp. Now they don't grow massive in this pool and they are a right mongrel bunch truth told. But somewhere in the past of this pool it has either had a population of wild carp or had a bunch of wild carp added to it. Now it's a really odd feeling when you've had a run of flabby mirrors or feisty commons then out of the blue you hook something that tears line off your reel like the shark in the film jaws. You end up fighting them for ages then a long thin common with a mouth you could cram a scotch egg in rolls into your net and it's maybe only four pounds.

So with my new toy in hand I toddled off into the woods to see what this new rod was made of. After pre baiting a favourite quite corner I did the obligatory lap of the pool trying to spot any fish. As expected in the scum line on the back of the wind I found a very large number of small carp hanging in the water. Even with twenty or more fish in front I me I wasn't tempted to go after them as they were really small. Moving onto another bank I found a massive patch of churned up water right in the margin. Watching it for a while I saw a few carp tracking the bank just beyond the cloud of muck. Then further along I spotted a second different group of fish moving on the same line just three feet off the bank maybe four feet down. This seemed just what I was looking for so I deposited a good helping of bait on two spots on the patrol route and headed back for my gear.

By the time I’d got back and slowly moved into position I could see at least two tails wafting temptingly under the surface. As I baited my hook ready to lower the free lined bait in I spotted another fish moving towards the feeding fish. I say spotted in a very tongue in cheek manner, as this fish could have been seen from space. In this pool along with the rest of the mongrels are three koi carp; one is a tiny white thing no more than two pounds, the second is an orange and black thing and the biggest is golden ghost koi. I watched it cruise towards the still feeding fish and just couldn't not chance letting my free lined bait flutter down in front of it. As the bait sank through the first three feet of water nothing happened but about a foot off the bottom the koi spotted it and surged towards the falling bait. I reckon the thought of missing it must have played a part here as the koi never even doubted whether it should take it. It sucked and I struck then fish flew in all directions, especially the golden bullet that was attached to my line.

The new rod felt amazing under pressure. It gave when it needed to and certainly had more than enough power to turn the rampaging fish away from the only snag in my proximity and to help this colourful christening fish into my waiting net.

They don't come much more colourful than this!
And it did not want it's picture taken.

It really didn't want it's picture taken!!!
After that eventful start I went back round the pool fishing each pre baited area in turn. In most swims I landed at least a couple of little carp before re-baiting and moving on. The only thing was that I couldn't for the life of me find one of those crazy wildie hybrids. In the end I went back to the very first spot I had baited in the quite corner. I had baited it twice more as I went round the perimeter of the pool and now I decided it was time to wait it out on the lift float until it was too dark to continue fishing.
One last top up with a final hand full of freebies inclined a couple small mirrors come up and began sucking any bait that had floated on the surface, so I knew there were fish in the area. I’d been kicking back in the grass watching the float for ages when it rose plumb out of the water before shooting of at an angle. I felt the pressure of the fish for a mere moment before the float flew over my left shoulder.
I reset the trap and went back to staring. At first I had thought I'd fluffed it up but them as I was replying to a text message I'd just received the float bobbed a little warning me of a carp in close proximity to my line. This time I was poised and ready when the float lifted slowly and fell to one side. I purposely waited for the float to slide away which it finally did. When I lifted the rod all hell broke loose as the fish shot out of the corner at a hundred miles an hour. The clutch was screaming exactly the right tune and this had to be what I had come for.
Every time I gained a little line the fish tore twice as much back. The little dwarf rod did its job perfectly cushioning the savage runs of the hard fighting fish. Just as I thought the fish was about done it and it came into the bank it suddenly found a second wind and began diving at the base of a tree to my right. With a normal length rod the fish would of hand the rod bent back on itself in this situation and I would of had to step back to regain control, but this angle was no problem for the dwarf. After an age of the fish banging around under my feet and one last charge into open water a huge mouth appeared on the surface. As the fish slid over the cord I got my first decent view of it and it was exactly what I was after a long lean torpedo of a carp.

Most of these wildie or hybrid carp in this pool average around three to four pounds. This one though was easily twice the average size and definitely the biggest of it's sort I've ever caught from this venue. It's size certainly makes me think it might well be a hybrid that has one parent that is a domesticated common carp and another which may well have been born wild. No matter what it's lineage was it certainly helped to confirmed how happy I am with my new dwarf stalking rod.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Time to stop this lingering.

I can't deny I've been lingering round after a big perch since Christmas. It's largely to do with the rivers poor conditions but also partly to do with me fancying a really big one. Only problem is that I have failed to land the giant I've sought! In the process though I have landed getting on for twenty fish over two pounds from five different venues, which now I see it on the screen in front of me doesn't sound that bad at all. In fact if you translate that into carp numbers for comparison which is essentially ten times that of perch weights, I have then caught what is the equivalent of twenty, twenty pound carp and that sounds even more insane!
Anyway that is all by the by as this malingering has to stop as I am beginning to see signs of tench being caught and the niggling urge to throw feeders into the stratosphere creeps upon me. But I needed an out or a finale to finish this fluviatillis phase I've been having. So rather than go back to one of the myriad of pools I have been inhabiting I decided to head back to the stretch of canal that has in the past provided me with more than my fair share of Jurassic perch to try and end it with a bang...Oh and it ended with a BANG!
I arrived after dinner thinking I would fish right into that classical perch feeding time just before dark. From the inside of my temperate car it looked to all intents and purposes a warm sunny spring afternoon. Outside my car the choice to not wear any thermal leggings under my trousers felt a little foolhardy! The wind was cutting along the canal in exactly the wrong way for comfort. I trudged along the bank looking for shelter but there was no chance of that on this session as the wind was actually blowing perfectly in line with the canal. With no one spot seeming any more sheltered than the other I decided to instead just plonk myself in what I consider a good area.
The action was slow to arrive in truth and after an hour and a half of regularly distributing broken uplobs around my two floats which were positioned one on and one off the shelf, I’d only had a two smallish perch and a random four pound bream. The wind was by now beginning to bite through my clothes and I’d even searched out a pair of gloves from my bag.
Persistence paid dividends though and after upping my feed rate a wave of bites came along. In that first wave of fish I had a couple of pound plus fish and a fat two pounder along with several smaller ones. Then the bites died off, I feed hard again and a second flurry occurred and this time I had two big ones in the rampage of smaller fish.
This script continued on for the entirety of the session and much as predicted as the boats slowed and the sun sank to the horizon the action went into over drive. Soon the perch were going crazy and it was inevitable I would get a double hit. I was playing what looked like a really deep fish which had come on the inside line when I saw the second float slide away towards the centre of the canal. With one rod jammed in between my legs I forced the first bigger into my waiting net then swapped rods to land the second smaller fish.

One over two and one under, both bulging, these fish were seriously hungry and fighting fit. I still had two hours of light left by my reckoning. The action went from the sublime to plain old out of this world and all the time I was getting colder and colder. But the chance of me leaving was very unlikely as I was making hay whilst the sun shone, or should I say catching perch whilst the wind blew. Having plenty of bait and queue of hungry perch just lining up to get in the action I fished as hard as I ever have right up until my floats were no longer visible in the dank light of dusk.

Packing away shivering in the dark I was a very happy man. Give or take a few I reckon that conservatively I caught over forty perch in the five hours I fished. Most were between 8oz and 1.6lb, seven were over two pounds and the biggest of those weighed in at 2.9lb. Add in the handful of mint roach, three zander and that four pound bream and I reckon I put over thirty pounds of fish on the bank.

I only have one regret about this session... That I didn't take a keepnet along with me as what a picture all those perch would have made!