Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Memories and monsters.

Everyone has important places in their lives, places that can be integral to who you become later in life. This is one of mine... I spent so much of my formative years fishing this small area of canal that I certainly got to know the bank side very well. I caught my very first perch sitting on a big square stone that I suspect is still  buried under the patch of black berries at the bottom right hand corner of the photo. My first pike fell to a spinner cast towards the big hawthorn bush at the back of the pool. I suppose what makes this place such an important place is not what I caught here but is instead what happened here. This where I learnt to fish!

Standing in the quiet of the morning I could remember right back twenty five years ago to when I sat being scorched by the sun and when my old boot sale special float slid away and a small spiny perch came writhing towards me. Waiting for my lift I pondered what my twelve year old self would have thought if he would have known what I was going fishing for on this day. I reckon I would have peed my pants with either excitement or anxiety if my twelve year old self new what I was about to catch. Saying that even having done this before I still find it hardly believable myself now at thirty seven.

My lift turned up and soon enough we found ourselves walking round the well trimmed banks of the fishery I refer to as area 51. Being the sort of fishery it is, it's not like any one area is better than any other and this I suspect is down to the repetitive nature of our quarry. I won't claim to any kind of expert on sturgeon fishing, especially as I've only done it a handful of times myself. What I do know from watching them in ponds and on this lake is that they pretty much constantly swim round the perimeter of whatever pool they are in. Hence fishing is as surprisingly simple as fishing large cubes of meat close to the bank.

I say it's supposedly simple but I found myself in that uncomfortable situation where my companion for the day Andy landed one within the first half an hour then followed it up with three more before I even got off the mark. Although I am suspicious of whether what I had been doing made much difference or not, I had been filling my inside line in with pellets and repeatedly casting to an island margin hoping to sucker one of battle ships in but had not had any response from any kind of sturgeon.

To make matters worse I had what looked like a decent Diamond back constantly parading within a foot of the bank all morning. I did all I could and tried my very best to be patent. Why they seemed so nonchalant about my baits was becoming a worry and that when Andy being the gent he is offered me some of the vintage flavouring he was soaking his meat in. CLICK! Next cast with the new flavoured meat my right hand rod which I had also brought in close sprang to life. Straight away in the shallow margin I spotted a very familiar tail. That meat had only done the trick and attracted that dam diamond back straight onto my bait.

It was mid-afternoon before I had any more action. All day long we had been watching the pools resident carp population going berserk on any free bait we threw in. Even on a man-made lake such as this seeing the individual clouds of mud pepper the surface as hundreds of carp hovered up anything food. It was during one of these fits of carp frenzy that I a big grey tail broke the surface of the water. I hardly had enough time to state it was heading for my bait when the rod tip buckled round and the buzzer sang the alarm.

What I think sturgeon lack in cunning they certainly make up for with shear power. Before I had chance to wind down the free spool it was off. I was just glad it was only us fishing in the area as this warrior of a fish smashed around the margins turning both our swims chocolate brown.

Eventually I got it under control and into the net.  It lookedto be a good fish. However it wasn't until we go it onto the matt and out of the net that something became evident. It looked suspiciously like Andy's first fish. A small but distinctive cut on the front dorsal fin was the main clue. But on the scales it weighed exactly the same. The weird thing was with this recapture was that when Andy hooked it first thing it fought like a wet sack and after only circling once went straight in the net. Whereas when I hooked it, it went ape. After realising it was the same fish it dawned on us both that we now had the same PB on the same fish!

Two days later I had myself a very early start and nipped over to fish a lake I haven't fished on in well over a year. I've been hearing reports that the tench had woken up and I seemed the right time to check and see what was going on. I arrived shortly after first light and found only one other angler already there. With practically all the lake free I was a bit spoilt for choice, but soon enough I settled onto a nice reed lined swim with the wind moving across it.

On most places my tench fishing is centred around ground bait, on this lake though I have had more luck fishing maggots in the past and so my attack was based on previous experience. To cut a long story short it was not an easy morning. Although the small resident perch of this lake seemed rather enamoured by my bait I struggled to find the tench. It wasn't until I deliberately increased my casting/feeding that I managed to hook into a small but excited male.

Seeing the upped feed rate seemed to have garnered a response I continued in the same vain until finally I hooked a bigger fish. This one ran me ragged diving into every possible bit of weed within thirty feet of my swim. For a heart stopping moment it did get pretty well weeded up. But by keeping the tension on it I gradually persuaded it out and into my waiting net. Given the clear water of this venue the colour of this chunky six pounder looked amazing and certainly made all the effort it took to catch her worthwhile. 

Even though the fish was in spanking condition one thing is a bit of a worry. The missing section of tail looked very fresh and worryingly like a bite or tear. There was even evidence of scratches on the other side of the wrist in the fishes scales. Unluckily this pool sits adjacent to another water coarse that is certain to have otters prowling its banks and although I've only just gone back and can't be sure, there seems a chance there may be something else after these stunning tench other than anglers.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Everything except the terrapin.

I lay warm and curled up in the quilt next to JB and listened to the wind driving the rain into the window beyond the foot of our bed. One of the trio of alarms it takes for me to get up had already gone off and woken me. Waiting for the following two I kept peeping over the edge of the quilt in a vain hope that the rain would miraculously stop now I was awake but it never did. All too soon the two chaser alarms came and went and still I lay there ruminating on my reason for getting up. I must have been mad thinking I would go out fishing in this weather. At this point I must say I am by no means a fair weather fisherman, but I am a fisherman who hates getting wet before I've even started. As long as I can get entrenched in a moment of dry I am happy.

My only opportunity to get out this weekend had already morphed form a crucian session to a tench fishing session as the wind and rain hardly seemed conducive to fishing delicate float rigs and certainly was not the classical crucian conditions I wanted. Still laying bed I was torn between the dry warmth of my current position or damp morning and maybe a cold fish. It was a memory which set me right though! Somewhere from the back of my mind I conjured the recollection of a session on the same water on a very similar day. That day I was the only one who ventured to that lake and it really paid off. I remembered even under the brolly I got wet the rain was driving so bad, but the pay off was worth it as I caught loads of really big old tench. After psyching myself up I quietly whispered out 'who dares wins' so as not to rouse JB and dived out of bed.

Two weetabix and a stop at the shop later I was sitting in the car waiting for the rain to momentarily stop so as I could make a break for and run the deserted path to the vacant area I wanted to fish. Eventually and conveniently the rain stopped and I made my move.

All set up and ready to go the previous visit here to Ryton pool came back to mind. So I opted to fish one rod short over a few loose balls of bait and fish the second as a prospecting rod at range out in front of the island where the wind was battering into. It was a slow start in truth but I was confident I was in the right area and that bites would soon enough come.

Even though the small silver fish were obviously finding my baits it took two hours for the first run to arrive. I half wondered if it was the tow of the water that was lifting my bobbin on my prospect rod at first. But after letting it rise slowly right into the buzzer the line carried on moving and began taking from the reel very slowly. Low and behold it was a fish and not a bad one either! Being as it was my best tench of the year so far I thought a nice tench selfie was in order and that's when I realised that I had neglected to put my camera in my bag for the first time in years! So for this session I was going to have to rely on my ageing phones camera.

The pictures didn't actually come out half as bad as I thought they might. But I've enough experience of sods law to tell me that today I would probably regret not having my proper camera to hand...and only too soon that was confirmed.

Even with the wind trying it's best to hamper my cast I managed to deposit the feeder back within reasonable proximity to the previous successful cast and it worked a treat within fifteen minutes the alarm bleeped into life and a second tench was on and this signalled a run of six more fish of around three to five pounds and culminated in a broad six plus female.

The close in line quite literally lay dormant as all the action seemed to be coming on this occasion from literally the centre of the lake. That was until I had a very stuttering take again on the long line. I had only just picked up the rod and bent into a solid fish when the inside line whizzed off. I was in half a mind to try and pick up the second run, but the fish I had on seemed to be developing into something a little more serious. The second run luckily became a dropped run which was terribly convenient as the fish I was playing was not playing ball. I really wanted it to be a massive tench but I knew it wasn't one in reality. A few people have asked me why I take such a large net tench fishing on Ryton in the past. So here is my answer... 

At nearly sixteen pounds this classical Ryton football would have never fitted into some the nets I see people using when tench fishing on this pool. My right hand is actually hiding how much this fishes gut hung down. Other than the slight nick in its dorsal fin it was absolutely mint top to bottom and thank god I had no one fishing to the right of me as the little bugger kited right into the bank and would have wrought havoc if anyone would have been fishing there.

Really after catching a mess of tench and that carp I was thinking I should be making tracks as I was already a bit overdue leaving. But I couldn't help chancing one last cast into that over productive area and thank old Isaac I did. I had just nipped down the bank to speak to another angler quickly when my alarm receiver bleeped once. At hearing that single bleep I made my way back to the rods. Nothing happened for a while but I still hovered, the thinking it would go off any moment. Slowly the bobbin rose then dropped back six inches sending the alarm in spasm. Thinking it was a drop back I struck and felt some solid resistance. I was waiting for it to steam off as I suspected a second carp had found my bait, but it just slowly started to come closer with pressure. My next thought was it might have been a decent tench, but the tench normally bang their heads a lot in Ryton. My next theory of what I had hooked was a bit out there! There have been a couple of terrapins caught by anglers in this pool over the years and on was even quite a large one as well. As my quarry got closer I was really getting quite perplexed by its identity and wouldn't of been surprised if a snapping mouth with my hook in it appeared out of the water.

I know it's a bit of a Loch Ness monster type photo. But this is one of the Ryton terrapins I took a few years ago.
What actually surfaced was just as surprising as a terrapin... It was a bream! and a good one at that. Now it might sound weird to be shocked at the presence of bream in anywhere, but at the tench dominated Ryton big bream are like hens teeth. According to legend a small shoal of less than ten big old bream have been in this pool for donkeys years and they very rarely get caught, hence my shock.

This one certainly fitted the bill. It was practically blind in both eyes through age and scales that stood as tall as they were wide and long. Even being as obviously old as it was it was in relatively good condition. Back in its prime I am sure this fish would have weighed in as a double. One thing that I did notice was that unlike all the bream I caught last week, it showed no signs of spawning tubercles if it was a male and was carrying no spawn if it was a female. So can only assume it was well past breeding age.

I have to say I was really honoured to catch such a Ryton rarity and it seemed a perfect way to finish a great session.

I think it is worth mentioning that on previous visits to Ryton, I had bumped off a worrying amount of the fish I hooked. After examining the rig on each occasion I had found that the hair rigged fake plastic corn bait I had used was folded round into the bend of the hook. Although it wasn't masking the hook in any way I fear it being twisted into the gape of the hook may have interfered with the hook penetrating or may of helped the hook pivot out of its hold. So I made a tiny and simple modification to my rig by way of adding a small section of silicone tubing that was threaded onto the hook link and then hook before tying the knot-less knot. I feel this certainly helped towards my success on this occasion as not one single fish came adrift during the fight and every hook hold was either in the bottom lip or corner of the mouth.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Attack of the killer bream.

All he wanted was a quiet idyllic day of crucian carp fishing on a lake deep in the Warwickshire countryside. Little did he know that his dream would never come to fruition as no pellet, no bread flake and  certainly no session is safe from the rampant shoal. Ravaging the shallows and deep alike, spreading slime as they mindlessly chomp, no bait could avoid detection in ATTACK OF THE KILLER BREAM!!!

What more can I say to start with than "you can't choose what you catch!" We can all say we are going to go fishing for this or that, but at the end of the day you can't stop all species bar the one you want to catch from eating your bait. From the moment I arrived a Snitterfield reservoir this weekend just passed I think what was going to happen was set in stone. The swim I fished was a very reliable crucian haunt and I fished as I nearly always do for crucians by potting out a small quantity of highly quality ground bait laced with dampened down micro pellets. However the moment that cloud of ground bait formed and began to fall softly to the algae covered bottom it must have been like a sensual siren ringing the senses of every bream in the vicinity.

I could even say that I was fishing in what by most anglers standards was not a particularly breamy area of the lake, as I always fish no more than four feet from the bank just where the visibility disappears. It was just a case of no other possible outcome. After letting my bait stew a while and walking once round the lake I returned to my peg baited my tiny hook with a single soft 6mm pellet and gently swung it tight onto the slightly fizzing area. As I waited and watched the day-glo antenna of my pole float, just off the end of my rod a single small bubble rose to the surface before popping, as they often do when crucians are around. Then right on cue, the antenna rose and the float shouldered up as if by design a crucian had lifted the weight off the tell tale shot that cocked my float. My swift strike however contacted not with a fish that instantly vibrated in circles but instead hung in the water like a dead weight before plodding off banging its head.

If this was a crucian it was a British record that had no eyes. Every day it was a bream! as was the next and the next, the one after that was a bream as was the one that followed that and that and that  and so forth. Turned out less than a quarter of a pint of ground bait and a few pleps fed every half hour could keep a large and constantly replenishing shoal of bream going all morning.

Although catching bream in Snitters is by no way unusual, catching so many this close in is. Normally I might catch one or two in a morning but to have queueing up practically in sight was a bit odd. But saying that, there might be a simple explanation which this picture will illustrate.

Every single fish was showing signs of getting ready for a bit of Abramis amore. Put simply I get the impression their fervour was largely relative to their preparations to spawn. Truly I believe their general rampant nature was do to them trying to get in peak condition to splurge out the next generation of mindless munchers. But whatever the inspiration for this feedathon the fact remains that the delicate little crucians I so wanted to catch could quite literally not get anywhere near my bait. Even standing little chance of hooking my target fish it really was quite a hectic and enjoyable mornings fishing landing bream after bream and going home smelling of that quintessential hum, 'odour le slime'.

The next day with my fishing gear still set to crucian and JB entrenched in the dirge of a world snooker final that was O'Sullivan vs Selby, I took the chance to grab a few hours on another pool after the little golden fellas. This pool however has a slightly different yet still fishy problems. Unlike the bream dominated snitters this venue has more carp, a lot more carp! And not only gear smashing sort either. You see although it does certainly contain true crucians, it also has goldfish and not just the orange buggers ether, its got the naturalised ones as well. Hence, even if a massive thoroughbred crucian was to be caught in it every purist would poo-poo it instantly. But anyway I wasn't about to be making any record claims any time soon and was instead after a bit of golden fun in the cleanest possible way.

For tactics it was pretty much a repeat of the previous day fishing. Plumb, pot, stew and cast. It took a bit of time to get a reaction but after a few casts and a change of bait I did provoke a typically crucian sort of bite. However even after acting very much like a crucian carp the first fish turned out to be a naturalized fan tail goldfish.

With tiny pinches of bread flake fished an inch over depth producing regular interest I watched my float dance around figuring it was only going to be a matter of time and numbers before I routed a crucian from the usurpers. But once again it was not to be and even landing regular imitators and a couple of tackle testing carp the closet I came to what I sought was well best described as having doubtful lineage.

I am not about to give up though! Right know I am trying to hold off tench fishing as I plan to do a bit more of that later in the year back at Coombe once the season starts up again. So for the next couple of months I am going to try and dedicate as much time as possible to fishing for those golden little pixie carp and not just because I want a big one, but more because I just love fishing for them.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Reel it in chap

It's hard to openly admit you have been doing things wrong. So with a pip in my craw, I confess. "I think I've been doing it wrong". You see after returning back to as far from the sea as you can get in this isle, I began tench fishing in earnest. Now I suppose a week of lead chucking could in some tiny way be to blame for my fishing faux pas but as well I have to point some of the blame on the modern fishing influences. Sometime recently I wrote the words 'chucking feeders into the stratosphere' and those words after last weekend kind of haunt me.

My first session after tench I hit the bank early and my first, like every cast of that session, involved me firing two method feeders as far as my Avon rods possibly could. On that occasion I had four runs and landed only two average tench from a very prolific water. I didn't think much of it to be honest and just attributed the poor show to the wrong conditions or some other external factor.

In the days between my first and second session I pondered if I may have gone a little over board using what in retrospect might be more of a late summer bait rather than an early summer bait. Hence on trip two I switched from a less fishy high food content mix and to a more sweet mix and minimal feed option. That session was worse! I took only one fish and had two half-hearted enquires. I left that second session scratching my head as I had seen other fish getting caught around the lake and I knew the bait I was using has in the past caught fish in near sub-zero temps.

Sometimes when the fishing is too easy I get a bit put off truth told and conversely any challenge quickly become obsessions. True to form I became a little fanatical about the quandary before me and believing my bait was good I started considering the dynamics of my rig. But truthfully I have landed literally hundreds of tench on the method rigs I use so I really did not think that was my problem. By the time of my third outing on the same pool fishing in the same area, I was still no closer to what I thought was the answer. I again set up stall in a similar area though this time I had four other anglers down the bank in sight. The session went exactly the same was as before and by mid-morning I was only two runs and one tench in and thinking this was going to be another disappointment. It was around then that I was scanning the pool looking for a move when I spotted a bent rod. I watched as the gentleman in question netted a tench. Two casts later a second came from his spot only a slight lob from the bank and it clicked! I had fallen foul of myself and outside influences. Could it be so simple as I was fishing too far out at the end of my cast?

After retrieving one rig and recasting it a quarter of the distance out I sat back and ran through my previous two and half sessions, only to conclude that yes every single cast had been aimed towards the centre of the lake. I had barely enough time to finish trying to kick my own arse before the indicator sounded a much more savage run than I had heard since tench fishing began this year. The insane head banging and general spryness told me a small male tench was on the end of my line and rather than pull him onto the bank I left him in the net to unhook; I never even lifted the net out before recasting both rods onto a similar line to begin a final two hours of activity.

It's almost embarrassing to admit that this small change where I quite literally reeled it in a bit on the cast had made such a gargantuan difference but it did. It wasn't total madness but there was a marked increase in the regularity of the runs and from scratching one fish in the first four hours the tench came along like one...




I bumped two others off as well trying to get them in a bit quick. Really I could hardly believe that with all my years of fishing I had been so stupid as to miss a very obvious answer to getting bites.

Truthfully I have to accept all blame for my mistake and as frankly it only affects me then it's neither here or there. But I can say that since Sky has begun replaying the carp fishing back catalogue on Discovery I have, as always, been feeding on a visual diet of long range casting intermixed with articles in magazines were shots of bent rods pepper accounts on catching ‘em far out. I suppose this brings to admit I have in some way been influenced by the media, which sounds terrible now I've written it, BUT! who amongst us can say they haven't been influenced themselves in some way. It may of just been a fancy solution to what is a pointless problem or just a shiny thing we go out and buy, but either way we can't deny that in this modern world media easily influences what we do, how we fish and what we buy.