Friday, 22 July 2016

Hark the morn doth call...Beeep beep beep beep beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep.

Picture if you will a classical English summer morning. The sun creeps up over old England spreading its warm rays over the golden fields of wheat; Pheasants call from the hawthorn hedgerows and young rabbits nibble the dew ridden grass. In front of you the sparkling pool glistens in the early light as swallows skim the surface stealing a drink on the wing. The smell of the new day fills your senses with the multicoloured scent of skunk weed drifting across the water and then the moment of silence is shattered by the shrill sound of twenty cheap bite alarms screeching, as what seems like a million ravenous carp attempt to cram food in there ever opening mouths.

Yes the other day I went back to Area 51 to fish for sturgeon! Was it not for a strange interest I have developed in these prehistoric beasts, my god, I would not force myself to fish on a commercial pool. But as they only exist in a few places locally and I cannot afford a trip to Canada to fish the mighty Frazier river for wild fish, then this is what I must endure.

I've wanted to fish for them for a while, but like everyone else I have little time and everything must wait its turn. I'd been stock piling tins of luncheon meat for a while in anticipation of this trip and I had to, as on my last visit the four tins I took were hardly enough. This time I had had a good three pounds of matchbox size cubes dusted overnight in krill powder as bait.

Part of my wanting to come back here and fish for sturgeon was that I quite fancied fishing for them on the float. On my last visit it seemed rather stupid fishing 3lb test rods with bolt rigs on alarms when the fish were noticeably circling under the rods. It wasn't till the night before that I stood looking at a box full of end tackle that I came up with what I can only describe the ugliest float rig known to angling; Twelve pound main line and a couple of feet of safety tubing to protect the fish to start with; a small coffin lead for weight, a buffer bead to protect the swivel, then a hook link made up of 35lb braid and huge size 2 hook with a 2" hair and some fake corn to help keep the meat on. For bite registration the most high tech component, a home painted bit of peacock quill.

I opted to fish a corner swim at the entrance of a bay. Although the bay was stupidly shallow there, I knew from a previous visit that a ledge where the water dropped off went across the entire front of the bay and that the sturgeon and their ever circling movement would more than likely keep to. It turned out to be the perfect distance to just swing out the bait using my 9ft Nash dwarf carp rod.

I'd set my float well over depth as I wasn't looking for roach bites. In truth sturgeon aren't the most finicky of feeders and all the bites I have ever had have seemed like something big and stupid making off steadily with your bait, as was the case only moments after casting out, when my float drifted from left to right before sliding away attached to the first one of the day. Somewhere between me striking and landing the fish, a small munchkin turned up behind me silently from a nearby bivvy and the moment I put the small diamond back down on the mat this little voice pipes up, "I caught that one yesterday."

With my new companion rattling away I tried my best to get some photos as I was regaled with how he had caught it. Even as I released it back to the murky water the commentary continued with the location of his capture and where he'd let it go. Turned out my shadow was now quite interested and for the next half an hour my new friend, Leyland, fired a barrage of questions at me including some real corkers like; Can ducks hear? (Yes!) How come fish can't swim on land? (Because they have evolved to live in water!) Can carp see? (Yes that's why they have eyes!) Do you like hot dogs? (I am partial to a hot dog as long as it has fried onions and mustard on it!)

To be honest I was relieved when a second sturgeon took my bait and I got a break from the questions as I played the fish. Although he never claimed to have caught this one, apparently his uncle had a few months prior for sure. Once I'd netted the fish and unhooked, Leyland very kindly offered to take a picture of me holding the fish. I did have to think about that for a minute as I didn't fancy chasing a kid around the lake once he'd done one with my mobile phone, but as his dad was camped out in the next swim I thought I would be OK. Stupidly I asked if knew how to use a camera phone to which replied with disgust, yes! Though this was the best shot!

"Thanks, Leyland..."
Not long after this the scent of bacon lured my little munchkin companion back to his camp and peace was restored, or a least a relative peace to this pool anyway. Ten minutes later with a bacon batch in hand he was back and nattering away in my ear. After talking constantly whilst eating, a large flock of geese caught his eye and before I could say no, he threw the last of his batch about ten feet away from where I was fishing, which as you can guess prompted nearly fifty geese into my swim before he casually left.

Now, there has been large element of this trip that I have so far ignored and that element can be described in two simple words, hungry carp! Most of my session I managed to avoid the carp. I say avoid but what I mean is not catch any. Although it must be said that they weren't avoiding me, and my krill flavoured luncheon meat was mostly being eaten by the carp. Their sucking and pecking was going through my massive bag full of meat at an alarming rate. Quite how none of them were getting hooked was beyond me as so many of them were resident in my swim. I even took to feeding a couple of tins of cheap sweet corn a little down the bank to try and focus them elsewhere, but in the end there was so many that I couldn't keep them away. But for all the attention I only hooked one single carp which went bat shit crazy ploughing into the bay and making right old fuss in the shallow water.

I never did hook into one of those big Siberian sturgeon I was after, but that's not to say they weren't on the feed. Simply put, I think they just weren't getting round to me as there was some many other anglers fishing and so much bait going in. Several were caught around the lake by other anglers, two of which were over twenty pounds and one of them was closer to thirty. The catch of the day had to go to rather hungover looking chap who out of the blue hooked a fish which led him a merry dance through quite few swims. After an epic tussle it turned out he'd hooked and landed a near forty pound catfish on a zig rig.

Given that I really was ready to leave once the carp had done me out of bait, I still intend to come back for a second go for those big grey giants in this pool. Though I think I might wait until later in the year and probably a weekday so as it might be a little quieter on the banks around this pool full of monsters.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Cockamamie ideas.

I am rather partial to a cockamamie idea now and again. Sure I like a safe bet as much as the next man, but every now and again I formulate a plan that to most would seem implausible. Take for example the Coventry brown trout! It's most likely anyone would instantly think I was talking about a turd floating in some heavily polluted body of water and conclude the term is a slang reference, but that is not the case. Right now if you're still reading I am willing to bet you're thinking that I have gone mad and that trout only exist in lovely southern chalk streams, Scottish tarns or stony Welsh rivers. Well, that's true but there is a rare and small population of  trout existing in the diminutive and practically forgotten river Sowe in Coventry, and the cockamamie idea I concocted was to target these special little wild browns on the fly.

Technically, I am a bit late starting this seemingly implausible endeavor. I had hoped to be doing this prior to the start of the coarse season adding that illicit "I shouldn't be on the river before the 16th but I can legally if I am after trout" thing to the mix, but what with getting ill and getting fixed I never managed it. Back to the point, I recently obtained a 4wt fly rod, found out a small fly reel I've had for years and purchased what is probably a wholly inappropriate motley crew of flies and readied myself for an outing. However every time I've wanted to go, the river had a flush of water which has put me off until now. Having scoped out a few areas I thought looked good for it, I have just been waiting for the opportunity.

The time finally came and I packed up my spanking new fly outfit ready to go. Early morning I made the short journey by car. When I saw the river though my heart sank. The weed had come up so much that nearly the entire surface of the stretch I wanted to fish was covered. I don't think even the most experienced fly fisherman, never mind a novice such as myself, would have managed to cast a fly amongst all the weed. My session looked to be a wash-out on the face of it. After a little wander I managed to find a deeper area which was clear of weed, the only problem being that there was no space to make any casts. So to save me wasting time, I opted to go back to the car and swop my fly outfit for a light lure outfit I had stashed in the car boot and try and see if any small pike or perch might have been hiding in the deeper pool.

Even though the pool looked to be quite deep I initially opted to cast a small Snapper shallow bug around avoid any unseen snags. After nearly ten casts I would have expected any pike to show themselves but the lure failed to raise any attacks. As a matter of course I carried on casting it though to cover the whole pool just in case. I watched the lure wobbling back through the clear water when a fish suddenly rose up steadily from the depths and causally sucked it in. The moment it opened it's mouth and I saw a flash of white I knew it was a chub that had taken it. I've never actually seen a chub take a plug and it was interesting to see it very calmly taken, like it was a injured fish. The fight wasn't anything to write home about, but it was nice to finally hook a chub on a plug and it certainly saved the session for me.

I would have left the pool alone if I wasn't sure that somewhere in the unseen depths there was probably a shoal of perch. So I dug out a small cannibal shad and a five gram Sakura 5gram weedless jig head to help prevent getting snagged up. The combination worked well together in the flow of the river and I could feel the jig donking on hard gravel bottom as it crossed the main flow. The only weed in the swim was a raft of floating weed that had drifted down and caught on an overhanging branch at the head of the pool. When my lure went in just behind it I really thought that was where I would get hit. The lure though caught the flow and as I jigged it up of the bottom a couple of times, something ripped into it.

No sooner had I struck into the fish than it came flying out of the water looking quite angry. At this point I was sure it hit a highly strung summer pike, and casually played it on the light rod. Then it jumped again and I wasn't so sure of its identity. When it did a third jump and kart-wheel across the river I thought it wasn't looking that much like a pike at all. Now though it went deep, banging around against the bent double rod and for a moment I thought it was another chub, that was until it rolled close in and it clicked that it was a trout, and a huge one at that. I couldn't see the lure at all so I was confident it was well hooked. Several savage runs from the net later and I managed to turn its head into my waiting net to lift my prize from the water.

When I originally came up with the idea of catching a trout from the Sowe I kind of thought I would be lucky to catch something that would fit in the palm of my hand, but the reality of this amazing fish was mind blowing. Nearly two feet long and weighing over six pounds, this was the yeti of Sowe trout. This could well be the mother of them all and probably had never encountered an angler before. 

It truly was an honour to catch a fish that I would have never thought existed in a Coventry river in even my wildest dreams. I know some people might have been tempted to knock it on the head and take it home for a feast, not me though. I held that fish out in the flow in my net head for close on ten minutes and treated it with all the respect afforded to a British record barbel, it was that special, and why shouldn't I as this fish itself could well be a Coventry record brown trout or at least a Sowe record.

Friday, 8 July 2016

Looking for targets.

I couldn't even bring myself to entitle this post the 'The lake #33' as I am almost embarrassed by my last outing there. Trying to be a clever bugger I pre-baited an area which is popular with tench. Diligently I went down the night before with a bucket of tasty expensive bait and liberally spread it on some lovely clean gravel patches close to lily beds in three swims. Barely able to sleep, I was up before my alarm and driving to the lake ready to find the water's surface looking like a cauldron of boiling cola.

When I arrived and made the long walk to the prepared swims, I was not greeted by the obvious signs of feeding tench at all so I stayed patient and stowed my gear, watching each swim in turn for more subtle signs of life. After forty minutes a single fizz rose in one of the swims and I crept in to plonk a float in at close range.

I waited, and waited, and waited a bit more, and when no bite was forthcoming I began checking the other swims again, but when I returned to the original swim I again saw a single fizz. I was convinced there were tench in the area but if they were here they weren't hard on the feed. With little choice I again cast out and trickled some loose offerings around the float.

After spending the entire morning like a statue in the reeds it was getting towards thirty minutes past when I should have packed up. Then out of the blue the peacock quill rose steadily from the water and flopped over. It was the most blatant lift bite I have ever seen and when I struck hard, thinking I was about to feel the venom of a hooked tench in shallow water, I was shocked to see my float hanging in the tree above me. All that effort and I totally missed my only chance of the session!

A few days later I went on a research mission for rudd. Although rudd are fairly common round our way, venues for big rudd are like rocking horse shit. Years ago I remembered catching a few decent examples that were not far off two pound from a lake on an old friends fishery nestled away in a Warwickshire spinney. Although I knew it would certainly be a numbers game, I duly purchased a large amount of maggots and headed down to Lanny's lagoon.

After pitching up in the very same swim where I had caught those fish years ago, I set up a shallow float rig and began regularly feeding small amounts of maggot next to a small patch of lillies. The results were fairly instant and straight away small rudd could be seen darting to the surface after the falling maggots. After catching a large amount of these voracious rudd and various silvers I realised that this would go on all day and that I stood little to no chance of sorting out any bigger examples. So I opted to try and see if under the mass of little ones something bigger might have been lurking. The bait too got changed for corn which seemed not to appeal quite as much as the maggots. The bites certainly slowed down and the fish certainly got bigger, although still it seemed like I was playing a numbers game with species now rather than rudd.

I had plenty of these young bream.
And I had a few things that were just plain old ugly.
And it was only a matter of time till all the noise attracted the carp.

In the end I knew I wasn't going to find any of those elusive big rudd if they still existed and although I wasn't getting anywhere near achieving my target I was having fun with these long lean commons that seem to revert back to a wild carp-like state in this pool. By the time I came to leave I reckon I must have put together a good fifty pounds of fish, which would have easily won the match that was going on in the adjacent pool.

This local big rudd question I think is going to take some solving. Worst of all a few seasons ago Coombe was showing promise with the rudd, but catching anything from there is proving to be another totally different problem in itself. The only thing I can hope on that front is that we get a decent bout of prolonged warm weather to kick the lake into action, as these cooler conditions seem to be stifling the fish activity at the moment.