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Thursday, December 31, 2009

So it goes

I've not been out fishing over Christmas as I've been feeling a bit under the weather, and the weather outside hasn't been encouraging enough to tempt me out into the cold. So I've stopped in reading and re-reading Gierach. I'm glad our winters don't last as long as the ones they get in Colorado. It's almost made me want to take up flyfishing with bamboo rods - but not quite... A little Googling has turned up a Gierach article on-line.

2009 wasn't a bad year, England beat the Aussies to regain the Ashes and I caught some nice fish. But my fishing was a bit up and down like the England cricketers' performances. The cold start to the year scuppered any chance of good barbel catches but I got a feel for chub fishing. Then the last week of the season panned out well when the weather changed for the better. Alas the good fortune didn't carry on into the spring tench campaign. I was hoping to really get to grips with my chosen venue this year but a combination of unfavourable conditions and a lack of time meant I caught just nine tench - although the ones I did catch were worth having.

Work restricted me to the one late spring bream session that went better than I could have hoped for. Then the rivers opened and I got sucked back into barbelling, because it was handy and fitted in round work, forgetting my other plans for the summer because I couldn't put a foot wrong with the barbel between July and November. When winter came back with a bang work piled up making me miss those narrow slots when the river was on form or a stillwater worth a visit.

Here's the highlights:
  • Barbel - 12-12
  • Bream - 14-06 [pb]
  • Carp - dnw
  • Chub - 6-09 [pb]
  • Grayling - 1-05 [pb]
  • Roach - dnw
  • Tench - 9-09 (f) [pb]
[pb]= personal best, dnw = did not weigh (i.e. small!), (m) = male, (f) = female

Perhaps not as spectacular as last year when it comes to variety of personal bests, but the longer you fish the harder they get to beat and I have no complaints. The main thing is that I've enjoyed my fishing once again. New stillwaters and stretches of river have been explored and fished successfully. That's probably the greatest thing about fishing, there's always something to do that you haven't done before. When it pans out well in pleasant surroundings, which seem to become more important than the fish as I get older and grumpier, there's nothing better.

All the best for 2010.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A grand day out

Well, I bought my maggots on Saturday, but by the time I'd got home after idling in the tackle shop, and learned how to use my new toy (of which more at a later date) it had started drizzling. The prospect of catching a few chub didn't appeal all that much so I postponed my next session until Sunday, which dawned less warm than I'd hoped and rather breezy. Monday was taken up foraging for a new washing machine - the smoke that had billowed from the old one suggesting it had finally spun it's last. Tuesday I'd be on the bank at dawn. That plan lasted until I remembered I had a phone call to make...

With the air temperature having made it into double figures for the first time in ages seeing three other anglers sorting their gear out in the car park when I arrived was no great surprise. Spying a rod rest that had been left behind I let the other anglers move off before pouncing. It's always a good omen to find some tackle at the start of a session!

Not being sure what conditions I'd be faced with after my long drive I packed two barbel rods, my tip rod and a float rod. The usual pellets were accompanied by lobs, dendrobenas, cheese paste, maggots and liquidised bread. I was rather loaded up as I braved Dog Turd Alley. I managed to avoid the turds but was pursued by spaniels at one point. This time I walked on past the alley itself to a spot where the river deepens below a riffly stretch and a crease cuts across from the bank I was on to the opposite side of the river. A bush in the water upstream to my left and one overhanging to my right gives plenty of room to spread the baits out.

An 8mm crab Pellet-O went upstream with a small bag of pellets, while downstream I cast a maggot feeder with a lobworm on the hook. Although the river looked to be a foot or so up it was fairly clear, but with a greenish tinge suggesting snow melt and it was dropping. However the thermometer read an encouraging 6.1c.

Settling into the swim I decided to bag up some pellets and while rummaging in my bait bag for the pellet tub and stocking-filler I thought I saw the quiver rod bounce. Maybe I'd knocked it. With the pellet tub between my knees idly bagging away the rod bounced again. Definitely a fish. It did it a third time and I struck, flinging some half-bagged pellets and the filler to the ground, and connected with something that was pulling back, trying to make it to the downstream bush.

My first thought was a barbel, then I remembered the light rod I was using and changed my mind to chub. Which was what the slate grey fin that emerged confirmed. I'd chosen to fish a lob worm partly to tempt a chub but also to see if there are any perch in the stretch. Half an hour and a fish on the bank. A chub would do. Not a bad start.

Still no 'five' this season

Although plump enough it was in a bit of a state. As the photo (not too clearly) shows some of its scales seemed to be covered in a thick brown mucus, but on trying to scrape it off it proved not to be slime but something beneath the scales that was raising their texture.

On recasting I began to get non-stop tiny tremors on the quiver. Some would almost look like decent bites, most would not. I thought minnows might be the cause, but when I examined the worm after a while it had been bitten half way through at the tail. Minnows with minuscule knives?

I switched the lobworm to two dendrobenas, thinking a smaller bait might encourage whatever was down there to take a proper hold. The vibrations of the tip continued until I struck at one and found the smallest minnow I think I have ever seen impaled on the hook. The dendrobenas were mere tubes of worm skin. This time I rebaited with a single, but larger, dendrobena.

I'd just wished an attractive dog walker on the far bank a good afternoon when the quiver sprang purposefully into life. The strike met sold resistance. Then something leapt from the water. I'd hooked a spotty creature. A rather thin, and out of season, brown trout.

Spotty Muldoon

The worms didn't produce anything more, but were still getting pecked at. I crammed four or five red maggots on the size eight and gave that a try. As soon as the rig settled the tip came alive. I struck into something that pulled for a second then fell off. In an attempt to see if they really were ravenous minnows I swapped the size eight for a fourteen with two red maggots. It didn't take long for a plump minnow to be swung to hand.

Greedy guts

Although it was frustrating knowing there was probably a shoal of the greedy litte beggars mopping up my maggots, sucking at my hookbaits, and driving me mad with their tip twitching antics I stuck at it missing most bites, hooking a few more minnows. On the point of giving up the maggot fishing I remembered how I had put up with this in the past for one or two of the bites to turn into grayling. I carried on enduring the tap-tap-tap of the Chinese Minnow Torture.

It struck me that there might be some better fish hanging back downstream of the minnow shoal concentrated on where the feeder was landing, picking off what maggots the minnows missed. The next cast went a bit closer to the overhanging bush. The tip was still when the rig settled. Then it registered a proper bite and I was playing something more substantial. At first I thought it was another chub, until it started jagging when I considered a perch. The flash of silver finally said grayling. One that would obviously require the scales. Not a specimen in most people's books, but when you haven't caught many grayling, and none that were worth weighing let alone setting up a tripod for, it was a nice fish.

The first self-take of the year

It didn't take long for the minnow hordes to discover the feeder was landing somewhere else and I was soon back to the constantly trembling fibreglass. I got a friendly wave from another lady dog walker. Again on the far bank. The tip kept trembling. Some noisy fieldfares flew overhead, quite high. The river was warming. The tip rod started bouncing. Another grayling, smaller by about a pound, was unhooked and returned.

All the pellet rod had caught was a long length of heavy mono that was easy to remove from the river. It was lightly caught up in the upstream bush's branches and hardly attached to anything downstream. It must have been lying on the river bed the full run of the swim - some twenty yards or more. I can't understand why the angler who lost the line lost so much of it.

What to do after dark? With the constant feeding of maggots I decided to try fishing a couple of plastic casters over them on one of my barbel outfits for an hour. This failed. The pellet rod was also immobile. The evening was warm. By the time I settled into another swim downstream, the swim I caught my last barbel from, I was wishing I could have stopped the night. This new swim was, like the banks themselves, much drier and firmer than last time out. So I set up on the 'plateau' by the water's edge. Tucked down the bank there it was nice and cosy. If I'd had a bedchair I'd soon have nodded off.

All afternoon I'd been listening to England's good progress in the hastily arranged third test from Antigua. I'd give it until the close of the West Indies innings or close of play, whichever came first. Pleasant as it was sitting by the river my confidence had ebbed away. When the last wicket fell just before nine I called it a day. It had been enjoyable. Although the minnows were frustrating it was almost like being a kid again. Sometimes getting bites and landing anything is all you need to satisfy the soul. Even a small, and unexpected, PB can do the same for you.

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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Pick of the year

Well, that's another year's fishing over. For the first time in a long time ending in a big freeze. Although I had been hoping for some prolonged cold weather to target chub this winter I hadn't wanted it this cold for so long - and predicted to continue. I nipped out mid-morning today and it was -2c and foggy, by late afternoon it was still -2c and foggy!

At least the fishing this year didn't grind to such a complete standstill as last year did. I started barbel fishing later but caught more, larger and for longer. The year had started slowly, but I made more better decisions and was more flexible than I have been in the past, so carried on catching fish by shifting my targets. You never stop learning.

Spring and summer were difficult owing to the ever changing weather with hardly two consecutive days the same. Even so I managed to catch some nice fish. After a season of bad timing on one river in 2007 I managed to get it right more often than not this time round, as my barbel results show. But where have the chub gone? Usually a few have come along to the barbel rods. This season (so far) they have been a rarity.

I'm not making any firm plans for the coming year but I do have a couple of new venues in my sights. If I can up a few more PBs along the way I'll be happy. Then again, I'll be happy if I catch more often than I blank. Unfortunately for the blog the issue of publicity bans cropped up this year and will be a factor in the coming months too.


That doesn't stop me looking back at some of my fishy highlights of 2008.
  • Barbel - 14-03 [pb]
  • Bream - 11-02
  • Carp - dnw
  • Chub - 5-09
  • Dace - 0-07 [pb]
  • Golden Orfe - 2-00 [pb]
  • Grayling - dnw, but bigger than the one I caught last year! [pb]
  • Perch - 3-05
  • Pike - 16-02
  • Roach/Bream Hybrid - 5-06 [pb]
  • Roach/Rudd Hybrid - 3-04
  • Roach - 1-10 [pb]
  • Rudd - dnw
  • Sea trout - dnw [out of season]
  • Tench - 7-04 (m) [pb], 9-03 (f)
[pb]= personal best, dnw = did not weigh (i.e. small!),(m) = male, (f) = female

Quite a satisfying list by my standards.

All the best for 2009.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Underneath the branches

It took me an age to get on my way yesterday. The road to the motorway was closed and the Sunday drivers were out in force with the sun shining and the day better than many we had during the summer. Given the weather I was surprised to find only one car parked up when I arrived at the river. Naturally the angler was in one of the swims that I had in mind to start out in. Not to worry there were others. So I went for the long walk confident there'd be nobody else on the stretch.

Imagine my disappointment when I rounded the last bend to see an angler casting out in my banker swim. It turned out he'd parked up at the next bridge downstream and walked up. Never mind the 'under the tree' swim was free. It had changed a bit since I last fished it. There has been some bank erosion and the platform of earth beneath the branches might not be there for much longer.

Underneath the willow

I had cunningly planned ahead with a new tactic. A barbel rod went out to the downstream raft of rubbish while I set up a tip rod to fish a maggot feeder on the crease created by the upstream bush. I'd fish for whatever might like a bunch of three maggots on a size fourteen until an hour or so before dark then put out a bigger feeder on a barbel rod fishing two plastic casters. Fishing the tip would get some bait down, attract small fish and draw the barbel in. With the river almost back to normal level and carrying a mere hint of colour I thought this might be worth a try.

Bites came immediately, the first fish landed being a small chublet. I hadn't blanked... The second fish was a grayling, my second ever and a new PB. I don't know what it weighed but it was a bit bigger than my first! On release it swam around upside down. So I fished it out and gave it a 'torpedo release'. That did the trick. A minnow followed, then a slightly smaller grayling which I torpedoed back and watched swim happily away.

The Lady of the Stream

I was first introduced to the 'torpedo release' by zander anglers. Apparently in Holland this is the preferred way to return zander - another species that can prove problematic to revive. What you do is throw the fish head first at the water as if it was a dart. It sounds awful to anglers brought up to hold fish level in the water until they regain their strength and swim off, but for zander, and it seems grayling, the torpedo release appears to revitalise them more quickly. Maybe it's the shock factor or maybe it forces water over their gills. Whatever the reason it's worth a try.

Plenty more bites were had, all from plump little minnows, so I swapped the rods over and cast out the big feeder in anticipation of some dusk barbel action.

Shortly before dark Roland came out to play. He's the only drawback to the 'under the tree' swim. Oddly, when it had gone dark he disappeared. I wasn't too far behind him in leaving the swim, as around eight I decided on a move to a spot I have fished before and really fancy for a barbel. Despite a clear sky, and a bright shadow-casting moon, the night was pleasantly mild. Or it was until I'd been settled in the new swim for about an hour when a chilling wind sprang up. One bait was fished close in and down to a bush, the other recast occasionally to the far bank and mid river. One chub bite to the close in rod was all I got. Shortly after eleven, feeling that nothing more was going to happen, I headed for home before the mist that was threatening to descend closed in.

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Monday, December 31, 2007

Out with a whimper

One final attempt to catch a fish, any fish, before the year's end came to nothing despite the river looking great and rising in temperature. Still, it was a more pleasant experience than last time with next to no wind and an overcast sky keeping the air temperature up after dark. Even though I blanked it's made me keen to get out again. Things can only get better!

If 2007 had carried on as well as it started of I'd have had a phenomenal year's fishing. As it was things started to fizzle out around October. Even so I'm not complaining. I beat my bream pb three times, my perch and tench pbs twice, caught a pb barbel and my first ever grayling.

Unlike 2006 I got the springtime perch fishing in, paying off big time, and the tench campaign worked more or less to plan this time round. The double figure bream were also a nice interlude. Again I enjoyed the fishing, especially exploring new-to-me stretches of river in search of barbel. Fishing new and different places - and catching fish doing it - is always enjoyable and enlightening.
  • Tench - 9-04
  • Barbel - 13-09
  • Perch - 4-12
  • Bream - 12-06
  • Roach/Bream Hybrid - 4-11
  • Chub - 5-04
  • Carp - 13
  • Grayling - not very big!
Here's to a great 2008!

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Saturday, December 01, 2007

Another target achieved - by accident

With foul weather forecast for the weekend I took advantage of the mildest day of the week for a final attempt at catching a barbel this November. Despite the river being warmer than last week it was carrying less colour, but the afternoon was pleasant as was the evening until the rain set in and the wind picked up.

I'd picked up some maggots on the way to the river to see if I could catch myself a chub or two by design, and to try out the MkII quiver tip section for one of my Interceptors. The rod worked a treat and the glass tip was soon registering a bite. When the second bite came I was ready and hooked something small and wriggly.

One of the targets I had set for myself this season was to catch my first grayling. I hadn't expected to do it on the maggot feeder, but that was what was wriggling on the end of the line. Far from a specimen I suppose it's still another personal best!

Very pretty fish. Even so I was tempted to stick it back out on a set of trebles... If we get another cold spell I might dig out a float rod and have a serious try for some more - although I'll probably catch chub!

After dark the rain arrived, but only stayed for an hour or so. Conditions seemed pretty good, but by ten o'clock not a bite had I had. With more, and worse weather on its way I packed up. Sure enough I drove home through a wave of torrential rain. Sure was glad I missed sitting out in it.

Not a good month for some reason. I have lost touch with where the barbel are. Time to give last winter's haunts a bash to see if I can get another barbel before the year is out.

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