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Sunday, January 24, 2010

A late start

A pint of red and white maggots was purchased yesterday, and three Interceptors rigged up ready for a roach session in the Land that time Forgot today. I couldn't get off to sleep last night as my mind was thinking out an idea for a website. It was gone two am when I nodded off and almost nine when I managed to crawl out of bed this morning - and it was raining. I pottered on the PC. making a start on the website and wondering if it was a good idea while listening to the radio. When the repeat of Just a Minute came on I snapped. Two slices of toast were slathered in honey and swiftly eaten. My plans had changed.

It was getting on by now, a session on the lake would be short. With this being the first weekend when anglers would be out in numbers, and the lake well filled, there might not be any swims vacant. To the river, still in search of roach. The river rod sling was ready, as always, even my quiver tip rod was set up. All I had to do was swap the stillwater tackle box and feeder bag in the rucksack for my river ones, fill the flask and load the car.

Crossing the local river it was much lower than it had been on Friday, meaning the big river should be just about spot on. parking up next to the only other car in the car park I headed straight to the river's edge to check it out. Not high and not low. Not too coloured. Great. The owner of the car had already caught a couple of roach. Things were looking good. Downstream there were more anglers in evidence, and a wander along the bank revealed that fish were being caught - on both float and leger. But no roach. Back upstream to the car, unload my burden and haul it down the slippy bank. There was not much to go on from the surface patterns on the water. There were fish in the area though, so it was worth a shot.

Almost February when the annual end of season desperation starts to kick in and a line not yet wet, no fish landed. Time to put that to rights. There was a light drizzle falling from the grey sky. The clouds that could be seen were coming from a vaguely northern direction as far as I could tell. No wonder the air temperature was below 5C. When I took the water temperature I was pleased to note it was 4.1C - and it rose slowly as the session progressed. The river level dropped. Not bad at all.

The first rod out was speculative 'barbel' rod. I wasn't expecting a barbel to pick up the paste wrapped boilie, but a chub might manage to hang itself. Having that rod out would do no harm, cast as it was downstream. The maggot feeder rig was cast upstream about a quarter of the way across the river. I'd half filled the feeder with maggots then topped it up with a mix of tinned hemp and micro trout pellets. The same combination I'd have used on the lake. The size 16 was loaded with one read and one white maggot.


The appetiser

Quarter to two and plenty of time to fish on into dark for an hour or so. Almost immediately the quiver began to jiggle. I wasn't happy though. There was too great a bend in the tip. I recast farther upstream. That was better but I still wasn't happy. The third cast went about five yards upstream and three rod lengths out. A bow was fed into the line and the tip pulled into a gentle curve pointing downstream. Within minutes the tip sprang back and I was connected to a fish. As I grabbed the landing net the fish fell off.

A repeat performance from the tip signalled a second bite on the next cast. Reasoning that I'd tried to drag the first fish upstream too quickly against the strong flow I took it easy this time. A chub of maybe a pound and a half was netted. The first fish of the year. One goal achieved. Now for a roach.

Up and running

Another chub was lost through another case of ignorance and brute force before I landed what looked like a big dace. I'm not accustomed to catching dace but I do know what a small chub looks like. This definitely wasn't a chub. Something about its appearance was telling me it wasn't a dace either. Dace alwasys seem dainty and delicate to me. The scales were smaller than those of chub, the mouth more refined. But... Not to worry. It was another fish.


A second mystery fish was followed by another chub. All these fish hooked themselves giving stomping slack line bites. Then I started missing bites and bumping fish off. I put on a fresh hook and promptly snagged up and lost the lot. I'd noticed that the last missed bite had seen just the white maggot sucked to a skin. After retackling I put just a single white maggot on the hook.

The next bite was again a classic slack liner coming soon after the feeder settled. When I saw that the fish was a roach I eased off as I drew it carefully upstream of the waiting landing net before dropping the rod tip so the fish slid into it. No monster but a nice fish of around nine ounces (as in eight or ten ounces). There would have been a photo of it here but the camera battery failed on me. Particularly annoying as it had been on charge for at least 16 hours, having been put back in the camera minutes before I left home.

All in all the Olympus 770SW has been a disappointment. It takes reasonable photos, many of the snaps I post on this blog (including all these in this post) are taken with it simply because it's compact and waterproof, but the colours and contrast don't always look right to me. I'll concede that the underwater shots have been good, and the macro facility too, but those are not what I use it for most. Now it looks like the battery is one the blink. It's never lasted too long on a charge to be honest. So there's no pictorial proof of my second target achievement of the day. You'll just have to trust me!

I made a longer cast to the middle of the rive which produced two very dacey looking, and dace sized, dace. A chub that wasn't much bigger fell to the single maggot when I dropped it back on the nearside line, then another definite dace.

The twin Drennan isotopes on the quiver tip didn't start to glow faintly until it had turned five o'clock. Reaching full brightness after another fifteen minutes. The nights will shorten rapidly from now on. I've found maggots to be less effective after dark, or so it seems, and was considering this after rebaiting by the red light of my Petzl when the tip sprang back to signal the final chub of the session taken from mid-river. The air temperature hadn't dropped too much but the flask was almost empty.

A prolonged bout of cabin fever can fool you into believing there are other ways to enjoy your spare time. I'd finally kicked the fishing year off and, although the fish weren't huge, I had enjoyed myself so much I was already working out how to approach another session. I'd come close to losing my senses. That website I started work on can wait. There are more fish to be caught.

I'm sure that if I had taken a keepnet I would have caught more fish. Chub, like perch, don't take kindly to their shoalmates being returned and stop feeding - or disappear. A float rod wouldn't have gone amiss either - if only for the sheer pleasure of watching a float follow the river's flow. Also because there were fish topping occasionally, increasing in intensity as the light faded. There had been a bloke fishing the 'pin upstream on the opposite bank and doing well too.

Getting back up the bank was a muddy struggle. Two trips with the tackle seemed advisable. A couple of times I thought I might tumble down the slope into the river. By the time I was on level ground and heading for the car I felt a good inch taller due to the mud on my boot soles. What does a bit of dirt matter on the car floor?

By the way, Fred Bunny accompanied me today. He's been lucky so far!

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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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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Back to the river

If I had got the morning's jobs finished sooner I might have gone roach fishing again, but time had run out. There were things I could have been doing but they could wait. I knew I really should have been on the river last night when it was warm, nonetheless I grabbed a belated chance to try for a December barbel. Three weeks is a long time in river fishing and not only had the trees now lost all their leaves making the ridge-line of the far bank visible through the veil of fine branches, the only greenery to be seen being ivy covered trunks, but the river bank had altered yet again with the floods. This can make finding exact spots to put the gear down and to cast baits to difficult.

It was a glorious blue-skied and fluffy-clouded afternoon. I left my fleece off under the bunny suit as I walked upstream past raddled and incontinent ewes. The river was carrying some colour, was up a foot or maybe slightly more and was warm - 7.1C. The chances of a barbel looked good. Even so I had hedged my bets and packed the quivertip rod and the remains of Sunday's maggots. An S-pellet went upstream on a barbel rod and then the feeder rod was put into action. I cast the empty feeder out until I found the distance where it would hold, then I put the line in the spool clip. Next cast the hook was baited and the feeder filled. On hitting the clip I gave the reel handle a couple of turns then set the rod down to let the tip settle. A few quick casts to get some maggots in the swim then leave it a bit longer.

When I can't be bothered tying up hooklinks for this sort of fishing, and my stillwater roaching, I use hooks to nylon. Kamasan B611s as a rule. They're a strong hook and tied to stronger nylon than most.

Lazy man's hooklinks

After half an hour I decided I wasn't happy with the S-pellet and wanted to swap it for a boilie. Unfortunately the rig was snagged solid. Either I'd judged the cast badly or a new snag had appeared in the swim. To save time I got the other barbel rod out and baited it with an Oyster and Mussel boilie before casting out to a slightly different spot. Then I rebaited the maggot rod and set to retackling the first barbel rod. I wanted to fish two barbel rods after dark.

With that sorted I wound in the feeder for a recast. The red maggots were a pulpy mess. I'd had a bite and not seen it. At least there was a chub around by the looks of those maggots. Cue greater concentration on the quiver tip. It only moved when debris hit the line. There wasn't enough coming down to dislodge a 3oz lead, but the 30g feeder would move. I would have put money on getting a few more bites.

By four o'clock it was starting to grow cool. The light was fading, but not as quickly or as soon as it does when sat indoors at this time of year. There's less than two weeks to the shortest day now, that turning point in the season when things slowly begin to feel more optimistic. It's no wonder there are festivities around this solstice. It was time to pack away the feeder rod and get serious about the barbel. The second barbel rod was baited with an S-pellet and cast downstream and well across.

There was now a narrow band of mist hovering over the river giving the water a milky look. A thin veil that was also creeping over the bank. My confidence began to ebb. I was twenty-four hours late and I knew it. The mist wasn't for making its mind up. It cleared for a while, raising my hopes. At five I picked up the boilie rod for a recast. The line plucked off something then I began to drag some rubbish in. Half way back the rubbish wagged its tail. In the torch light I could see a chub making a feeble attempt at fighting back. There had been no indication. I returned the chub then the stars appeared and the mist closed in again. The beach beckoned. On retreiving the boilie rod I saw a chunk of the bait was missing. Another chub attack with no movement on the rod tip. When the chub are feeding delicately times are tough.

As I rounded the bend the river was clear. Maybe there was a chance. By the time I had the baits out and was settled down the far bank was gone. The mist had become a fog. There seemed little point packing up and hitting the rush hour traffic. Another hour wouldn't hurt. Maybe a breeze would spring up and clear the air.


Fat chance. Half past six seemed as good a time as any to finish. That way I could listen to the Archers in the car. The walk back was weird. The Petzl light was reflecting off the fog making it hard to see more than a few feet ahead. There were no lights visible in the distance to give me any sense of direction so I had to use the headtorch. Even so I nearly managed to stumble into a fence that I knew was there but couldn't see!

The car's thermometer read 5.5c, down from 10 when I had arrived, and it fell further as I journeyed home. The forecast is for more of the same. Sunny days with night-time frosts. Maybe one more try for a barbel tomorrow, when I have the afternoon free, before something more serious over the weekend. One thing's for sure; the bivvy won't be involved.

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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Full moon

This time I managed to set off an hour earlier. For some reason it didn't help matters much. The afternoon was so gloomy I had the sidelights on as I drove to the river. There were five cars in the car park, and with a long walk to the river I envisioned having a long walk back to the car without fishing. As it turned out I passed four anglers, one landing what looked like a chub from a distance, on my way to the bend. Above him there was plenty of room before the final angler's spot. In fact when I settled in my chosen swim I might as well have had the river to myself as I couldn't see any other anglers.

The walk had taken longer than expected, partly due to struggling over two stiles, stopping to look at a swim closer to the car, and stopping to put my waterproof jacket on when the rain started. Oh, and nearly getting lost and tangled up in a thorny thicket didn't help.

Where I was fishing the gravel was covered in a thick carpet of leaves. Maybe more than six inches deep it was like walking on a thick pile carpet. So many leaves were there that what looked like the edge of the river wasn't. Not only were there leaves sunk to the bottom in the visible margin, there was a false bank of waterlogged leaves. Netting and returning fish would be fun! Because of this I put the rod rests in well back from the water on firm ground, my landing net laid across the quaking mass of leaves, its handle propped up on a bankstick. That long handle might prove useful in keeping my feet dry.

Leaves, leaves and more leaves

My usual approach was put into action. A 15mm Oyster and Mussel boilie going upstream between two fallen trees, dropping just short enough to keep out of trouble, and a 10mm Crab and Crayfish boilie going below the biggest tree. Both with their attendant PVA mesh bags of mixed pellets. The rain had eased off so, after a sandwich and a brew, I started bagging more pellets. It would be come impossible if the rain became persistent later on.

Well back from the edge

This was the cue for the upstream rod to start banging. A typical chub bite. Or was it. When the fish neared the edge, I was paddling in the leaf soup, it took line. A small barbel maybe? No, it was a chub. A lovely conditioned fish too. I hoped it would make five, but it fell short by just under half a pound. Nice enough for a rubbish photo though. The Olympus compact I use really isn't up to much for flash shots.

A much manipulated chub

Two hours later the same rod danced again. This time the fish fell off as I was trying to get the mesh on the landing net untangled. What it was I'm not sure, I rather suspect it to have been another chub. The action wasn't really hectic. With the walk being so long, and the sole of my right foot beginning to hurt when I walked I came up with a plan. Rather than sit it out where I was and have to tramp all the way back to the car in one go, braving the thorns in the dark, I'd move downstream and spend a few hours in the swim I'd stopped to inspect earlier. By eight o'clock, having survived the thorns with one minor tangling incident, I was there. Or rather a swim lower down. This swim had been occupied when I arrived. Some bait would have gone in already...

Away from the shelter of the high wooded bank I was getting the full force of the blustery wind. The rain had come back too. I put my rods on bite alarms so I could hear them above the wind noise, then erected my ancient umbrella. I've fished this area a few times in the past and struggled to be honest. As far as I can tell it's a bit featureless. I suppose I should spend some time investigating it as it does produce big barbel and chub. But I find it a little bleak and depressing.

I'd been ensconced in the swim for an hour and a half and was dozing pleasantly when the night lit up with flashing orange and a piercing scream. Bugger me. A fish! Only a small barbel of fourish pounds. Welcome nonetheless. Would there be more? I didn't wait around much longer to find out. An hour later I was putting on my waterproofs ready for the tramp back to the car. This was noted by the rain gods who stopped pouring water from the sky as soon as I got to the top of the bank. I could see just one car in the car park as I slogged up the final rise. Luckily it was mine. The last silly sod off the river as usual.

As I rounded the final bend before entering the flatlands on my journey home, just before the spot two roe deer had crossed the road one night, my headlights picked out the unmistakeable shape of a bare human bum. As I passed by I saw that it was attached to the pasty legs of a young lady (looking somewhat 'tired and emotional') who was pulling her pants up at the side of a wheelie bin. There was a tiny snail creeping up my garage door when I returned home. The things you see because of fishing...

A modest snail

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Fishing as therapy

This week hadn't been going well. Man Flu was bad enough - constant sneezing and soaking handkerchiefs. Then work started going wrong. On Wednesday I was in the mood to pack it all in and become a hermit. When Thursday came round the world was looking rosier, the sneezing had stopped for one thing and the sun was shining. After lunch I headed to my local tackle shop, only to find a note on the door saying 'Closed for lunch. Back at 1.30'. It was 1.35, so I walked to the café to kick them out!

I picked up a bag of feed pellets to chuck into my big pellet bucket and a Fox lure box to organise my small spools of whipping thread - the unusual colours that I use mostly for repairs and tippings. They've been jumbled up in an old ice-cream tub for far too long. On the way home I bought some corn dog for butties, and once they were made I was on my way. With the day unseasonably warm the river was calling me. An evening by the river would help me get my head together and revitlise me.

A rainbow in a box

The journey was somewhat tedious, I should have set off sooner to beat the traffic, and I had no clear idea where I was heading. Would the river be up and coloured, or would it have fined off again after the rain earlier in the week? The car made it's way to the stretch I fished last time out. It's a peaceful stretch, and even if busy there's always somewhere to cast a bait.

This time it wasn't too busy. Two anglers who were packing up said it had been a struggle. The river was not as high as I expected, hardly up at all and dropping. The colour wasn't much either. By all accounts there wasn't much in the way of leaves or debris causing problems. I wasn't brim full of confidence nor was I despondent. Something would come along at some point.

It was a two boilie approach this time. One rod fishing a 15mm Oyster and Mussel - it's been doing well so stick with it, the other a 10mm Crab and Crayfish - got to give them a fair trial. Sitting on the beach they were cast well apart to cover different parts of the bend. I dropped them both a little shorter than usual in an attempt to avoid the snags, hoping fish would still find them.

I was settled down by six, the light was fading early as the sky had clouded over. The first spots of rain pattered on the river, the wind was coming from a southerly direction and the far bank keeping it off me. Gradually the rain increased in intensity and I put on the waterproofs while sat under my brolly. That was when the upstream rod tip jagged down a couple of times and I found myself pulling in a dead weight. It was definitely a fish but it felt very odd. Half way in it seemed to come off, only to come back as I took in slack. It was either very big and lazy, or something was up. When it rolled on the surface I could see it was hooked in a pelvic fin. A bemused looking barbel of some seven pounds.

Ten minutes later, while I was rebaiting, the downstream rod fishing the Crab and Crayfish bait steamed off. Just to make me eat my words about how Ribble chub never do that... This was a very lean fish of four pounds. I wondered if these boilies were chub magnets like Mainline's NRG paste. I tried NRG a few years back, both as a paste bait and a wrap with boilies. It did catch barbel, but chub (and bream) seemed to make a beeline for it and it was abandoned as a barbel bait. Please don't let the Crab and Crayfish be the same.

I'm well into the mode of leaving baits out as long as possible now. I can't see the point in putting too much bait out when the temperatures are falling. It was twenty-five past seven when the 10mm bait was off again as the rain eased. There was no mistaking this fish for a chub. A steady plod gave the game away. Barbel would eat the Crab and Cray. When netted the shoulder width suggested another camera session would be called for. It was. But it didn't go smoothly. No sooner had I got the tripod set up and a test shot taken for framing than the batteries died in the camera. Off the tripod, put in the spare cells, try again. Camera dead. Back off the tripod and battery compartment opened to reveal one put in the wrong way round. Third time lucky. Fish out of the sack, photos taken, fish returned.

Room to fill out some more

The night was warm, I was working up a sweat with the waterproofs over the top of the bunny suit and the swim looked like a whirlwind had hit it. As I rearranged it to a semblance of order the upstream rod slammed over. This fish looked as long as the last one in the net, but on the mat was skinnier and lacking in the shoulder department. Not even nine pounds. With the rain looking like it had gone for good I sat it out until half nine. My hopes were fading though. Not least because the sky had cleared and a light mist was forming. An early finish or move? Move. As I packed up the sky clouded over and the mist lifted.

Half an hour later I was settled in the swim where I had tumbled down the bank earlier in the season. It was less overgrown now with less to trip over. With the river being lower than back then I went for long chucks on both rods. It only took fourteen minutes for the downstream rod to rip off in decisive fashion as yet another chub proved my judgement wrong. A bit of a baby this time. Ten minutes later the Crab and Cray provided me with a small barbel, boosting my confidence in the bait. I thought about making another move, but by eleven thirty without another bite I decided to give it best.

Two good things gained from the session were the barbel on the new bait and the small one from the second swim. I had it down as maybe a better bet for barbel when the river was carrying extra water, but now I think there's a chance of a fish anywhere along the length. Maybe moving regularly is the secret to fishing the uniform appearing stretches. It has worked for me on another length.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

An away day

Once again an early start was avoided. I had planned to be up and out by eight at the latest, but it was nearly nine thirty before I hit the road to Stoneleigh for the Tackle and Guns trade show. After many years of driving to Stoneleigh I have finally found a straightforward route. The most tedious bit was the M6 which was restricted to a 50 limit in three or four sections of road works that weren't being worked.

I'd only just arrived when I got tapped on the shoulder by John Watson and then I bumped into my friends from my local tackle shop. And so it went on for the usual couple of hours - walking round the stands in circles, looking at new products, chatting to people about tackle and fishing - and annoying the Scousers on the Harrison stand! It's always a good day to catch up with folks, and this year it seemed to be busy.

While I was noseying around the Korum/Sonubaits/Preston Innovations stand I spied a lot of new gear from Korum. Bigger rucksacks and Ruckbag, some daftly large rod holdalls, some nice looking bits-bags and a wheelbarrow. There might have been more. Chris Ponsford gave me a couple of bags of Sonubaits Crab and Crayfish shelflife boilies - which don't smell of much - but which he reckons catch plenty of barbel. I thought I'd give them ago on my way home. The gear was in the back of the car after all.

I like freebies. But will the fish?

The good news from the show is that Owner hooks will be available again very soon. The bad news is that they have gone up in price. I might also have something new to stock, but that's to be decided by price at a later date.

With everything looked at twice it was back to the car, drink some tea and set off across country to wet a line in a river I haven't fished since March. On paper the road I'd chosen looked like it would be quick. When I took it it turned out to be a mass of roundabouts, speed limits and Sunday drivers. As I passed Magnas and Parvas in the rolling countryside, the trees in their full autumn glory, I was struck by how built up the north west is. How close together the towns are and how the villages sprawl along the A roads. There is countryside, but it is not so expansive.

The river was deserted. I walked down the bank and the popular swims were not trampled. Then again with the lack of rain they wouldn't be as badly as affected in any case. Things had changed, the Rat Hole was closed in more by the willows, the bank altered too. I drove on downstream. Here two anglers were roving with float tackle and I spent another half hour or so walking the banks. The river was low and clear, gravel beds clearly visible but not much weed to be seen. The path through the undergrowth took different turns to last year at this time. Again swims looked under fished. Some were grown over. As I retraced my steps the angler who had been in the only swim I fancied under the conditions had gone. With the swim being less than fifty yards from the car, and my legs being tired that was where I'd fish.

After dropping my gear at the water's edge I flicked away the dog turds from the grass above with a bankstick. I had no desire to put a foot, or a hand, in them in the dark. I took my time setting up. With the water so clear I didn't hold out much hope until nightfall. My rigs were in disarray. One hook was gone, it having snagged up when I wound in last time out. This one was rigged to fish a 15mm boilie. The other rig I knew had a hook which had been resharpened. With a chance of a really big fish to be had from this river I'm less slapdash with my set ups. A fresh hooklink was tied up to take one of my newly acquired 10mm boilies. Before sorting the rods out I put some bait in. Having forgotten my bait droppers, and faced with a fair flow and depth, I picked a handful of stones from the field behind me and tied up some PVA stocking - dropping a stone in with the pellet mix. Half a dozen of the weighted bags were thrown in downstream just out from the edge, then two handfuls of pellets scattered like corn over the top.

The white blob at the right is the stone

Then the baits were cast out. The small boilie went over the feed, the larger one to an overhanging tree on the far bank. It actually went in the tree but I pulled it free... The cast ended up just the right side of some debris trailing from the branches, so I was happy enough. Time to polish off the sandwiches.

There were a few leaves coming down with the flow and every so often the line on the upstream rod would look to have shifted. With darkness near I decided to have a recast in readiness. I picked the rod up and found it snagged. I pulled and the trailing debris below the tree moved. I pulled again and it all felt spongy. The debris was attached to some line that had been caught in the tree and snapped off. It was probably mono by the feel of things so I'd have no problem either snapping it or dragging it clear with my braid. Not so. I pulled hard and something parted with a crack like a whip. Braid doesn't usually do this. My line had parted and shot towards me, some of the slack wrapping itself round both my rod and the line between the rings. I tried to untangle it but ended up reaching for the scissors. The floating debris had returned to it's station.

I'd got as far in the retackling process as clipping on the lead when the baitrunner came alive on the nearside rod. The culprit was a chub of ten or twelve ounces. Fin perfect and a confidence booster for the new bait. Why don't Ribble chub always take off like that? I dropped the far bank bait short of the tree on the recast then put the near side rod out again.

It wasn't long before the big bait was taken. The bite was one of those that slams the tip down and causes the rod to rattle in the rest as it almost bounces right out of it. Typical chub bite. And so it proved. A bigger fish, but far from a monster.

A nicely conditioned chub

It was well dark by now but the fields were still being worked. Crops being sprayed and soil being rolled with heavy harrows clanking in the distance. Another of those mild nights that was a pleasure to be out in. But not one which filled me with barbel confidence. The next bite was another rip-roarer to the small bait that turned out to be yet another chub. A five-pound-long fish that I weighed at four and a half.

If I had been closer to home I'd have moved, but I was feeling tired for some reason and getting home at two a.m. didn't appeal. As Watto and I agreed earlier in the day, we fish for our own enjoyment not to prove a point. Rather than move I called it a day shortly after nine. I'll be back again. Either for barbel when the river's carrying extra water, or later on when I'll have my chub gear with me - and maybe a float rod for the grayling.

The drive home was livened up by an alder fly that had found its way into the car and was crawling over the side window in a confused manner. Until it took to the wing. Then it chose to land on my head and crawl down my neck. I can't advise swatting at insects while doing 70 in heavy traffic.

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Monday, October 12, 2009

Don't make plans, take opportunities

It was looking like I'd be tied up pretty much all of the coming week, and there were night time frosts forecast. Better hit the river then. Another gut feeling saw the car carry on past the track it had been drawn down the afternoon before. The stretch looked deserted and the wind, chilly as it was, from a direction that wouldn't have made the fishing uncomfortable. The lure of a bank that wasn't vertical and slippy was too much. I got my timing a bit wrong though. It was getting dark as I put the rucksack on my back and made the short walk to the swim.

Out went a boilie, well upstream, then a pellet downstream. I sat down to check the position of my chair would allow me to grab either rod easily when I had to leap up and grab the downstream rod! A scamp was unhooked at the water's edge. Before I could rebait I was playing a fish on the upstream rod. A slightly larger scamp. The gear was arranged to my satisfaction before both rods were recast.

And so it progressed for most of the session. Not quite so hectic, but bites at regular intervals. The third and fourth bites resulted in dropped fish. The fourth one right at the net, which never happens to me. I didn't change the hooks or resharpen them, although they were checked, and everything else hooked stayed hooked. Hook pulls just happen. I no longer fret about them. Write them off and move on.

At quarter past nine a barbel bite resulted in a small but immaculate chub. At eleven the same rod, fishing the pellet, slammed down and bounced in the rest, then slammed down again. The fish pulled a bit at first then gave up until it was under the rod end. I couldn't work out what was going on until a large pair of white lips revealed themselves over the landing net. Peering down in the faltering light from my Petzl I saw a chub that might just need weighing. After confirming the weight I rested it in the net while I set up the tripod. Normally I wouldn't bother with a self-take, but large (to me) immaculate chub are like large immaculate (I refuse to say 'pristine') roach. Scarce. These two species always seem to lose scales as they age. This chub was near as dammit scale perfect. As ever I failed to capture this with the camera.

Almost mint

The sky was clear, the stars and aeroplane lights bright, there was no mist on the water despite the cool air and the haze up the valley. It was a pleasure to stop until midnight. I'd caught a few barbel, seven in fact- including the Kinkster which had visited my net for the sixth time this season, I think. It had been fun. I'd pushed my barbel count for the season to an all time high (which isn't saying much). But the highlight had been the chub. One big fish or a lot of middling fish? I'll take the loner every time. Then again, I do like getting the rods bent.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

No time like the right time

That's the PAC Convention out of the way for another year. Getting up at four thirty and driving 126 miles reinforced my dislike of early starts. The only good thing is watching the world appear from darkness - and the relatively quiet motorway system on a Saturday morning. As usual it was a good day to meet people you only see once a year. Being on your feet all day after getting up at daft o'clock takes it out of you, so Sunday was a lazy day of tidying my stock away then having an early tea and heading for the river.

'Interesting' Nev Fickling looks interested...

With the warm dry spell continuing I was expecting to find a few cars in the car park and their occupants fishing where I fancied. Like a lot of anglers they were fishing to office hours and getting ready to pack up when I reached them. All too often these nine-to-fivers tell me I'm arriving at the right time as they put their gear away and head home. Especially when the river is showing its bones. If they know this why are they going home? Ah well, they had baited a couple of swims up for me. As they'd been there all day and caught a few I elected to cast out baits with no PVA bags attached.

The remaining two anglers, fishing the beach, were starting to pack up and I was thinking of moving there as they hadn't caught any barbel but had been putting bait in regularly. Cue the upstream rod hooping over! Two 8mm crab pellets had been picked up by a smallish barbel. Stop where I was for a bit longer.

It was still light when I heard a sound like a herd of heffalumps moving through the wood opposite. Then I heard the cackling of badgers arguing. They really aren't the most stealthy of creatures. I tried to get a glimpse of them but most of the leaves are still clinging to the branches. Just as soon as they had started their racket it stopped.

After twenty minutes more I could feel the beach calling me again. The downstream rod arced and the baitrunner spun. A slightly bigger fish, and a well proportioned one too. I stuck it half an hour longer then went to get grit in my tackle. A chub attacked the boilie almost immediately, without getting hooked, but it was nearly an hour before the upstream rod lurched round on it's rest. The fish was on, then it went solid. I kept the pressure up and it moved, the line grating on something before it came free. A similar sized barbel to the previous one. I checked the line and hooklink for damage before recasting.

For some reason I couldn't settle here, so decided to move again at ten. On winding in the upstream rod it snagged. A good steady pull felt as if the rig was in weed, which seemed unlikely given the depth. Things moved but grudgingly. I found out why when my rig left the water with another hook attached - and some nylon. I freed the hook and commenced to wind the lost line around my hand. There were yards and yards of it. At least as much as it would take to cast across the river. I'm sure that was what the fish had taken me through.

Better out than in

People who have never used braid say it's a menace as it doesn't rot when left in snags, yards of the stuff trailing downstream making the snag worse. My experience is that it doesn't get left in snags as it breaks at, or very near, the hooklink. Yet when I pull rigs out of the river they have nylon attached that hasn't gone at the knot. How you can leave so much line in the river is beyond my comprehension. Although having watched one snagged up angler cut the line at his rod end I'm not too surprised.

My next move was to a swim I hadn't fished before. In the dark it was difficult to get my bearings, not least because the feature I wanted to cast to was now invisible... Whether I fished the right swim or not I'll know next time I visit in daylight!

It was comfy peg to fish from and sheltered from the breeze that had died down after dark. The only disturbance being from the drying balsam pods showering me with their seeds. Clouds parted and reformed. Stars were peeping and hiding. Yet again it was a warm night with only the fleece required. A grand night to have been bivvied up somewhere. While the dry spell is forecast to continue there are frosts predicted for later in the week. After an hour I was getting drowsy. My eyes were shut when I heard a baitrunner and looked up to see the downstream rod bent over. It felt like a barbel for a few seconds before metamorphosing into a chub. Chub always seem to fill out later than barbel and this skinny four pounder was no exception.

The rods were set high as it was a long cast over shallow rocks

Midnight came, the house lights in the valley were going out. I set off back to the car wondering why someone who was never fit in their youth and whose knees and hips are wearing out would be clambering about wild river banks in the middle of the night. Driving along the narrow, high-hedged, lane from the farm I came across one of the reasons. Minding its own business was a roe deer buck that slowly turned and trotted ahead of me. Ten yards further up the road I noticed movement lower to the track. At first I thought it was a rabbit but when I focused properly it was the rear end of a badger leading the deer to the lane. Badgers always look to me like they've forgotten to put their arms in the sleeves of their coats, their fur seeming to be draped over them. At the junction brock turned right and found his way under a fence, the deer turned left and began to panic trying to get through a thick hedge. I stopped the car to let it take its time. At the third attempt it found a spot where it could push its way through. Normal people, and nine-to-five anglers, don't have experiences like that.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Reasons to be cheerful

Was it desperation to reach 100 barbel for the season, a day that had started wet and chilly but turned warm and windy, or having got my work boxed off early that sent me to the river again? Only one way to find out.

I must have had the intention to fish at the back of my mind because in between jobs I'd spooled up some more Tiger Braid. I decant this from the large spools it comes on to smaller ones. Usually I do this by hand but I had the brainwave of sticking the small spool on a spindle clamped in my lathe. This worked well until the spool was almost full at which stage I stopped the lathe forgetting that it spins on for quite some time. There was braid wrapped everywhere along the spindle and spilling from both spools. Another good idea in theory. I spend as long untangling the mess as it would have taken me to wind the line by hand.

What rain there had been had made no impression on the river. It was still painfully low and as clear as it gets. Not even a peaty stain in the margins. I'd just managed to avoid the rush hour traffic and ate a sandwich before setting up. As I'd expected the boss peg was occupied but this didn't worry me. I set up at the start of the run and cast into the channel.

I thought I'd heard a swift calling as I left the car park, but couldn't see any. Sitting down and looking across the river I realised I hadn't seen any martins or swallows for a while. One or two usually linger until October or later. With the leaves dry and already building up on pavements, and the equinox past, winter will be on us before we know it. By February it will seem to have been here forever.

The wind was chilling, even though the day was warm, so I put the bunny suit on - without being disturbed by a fish. The sky was blue with broken cloud, but after dark the clouds built up, the wind keeping any rain at bay. At half past six a chub saved a blank when I brought in the boilie rod for a recast. It was just there, pretending to be an eel as I wound it in.

Side hooked plastic pellet

With the river so clear I altered my usual pellet rig over to a mono hooklink with a size 12 C-5X and side hooked a 6mm Enterprise Plastic pellet. I've shied away from fake baits on the river solely because of tackle losses. This time I was in the mood to take the chance. At six thirty five, just after a recast, it was taken. The Kinkster made another visit to the bank. Looking chunky and weighing six and a quarter pounds. The next cast with the plastic pellet saw it lost to a snag. By now it was almost dark so I reverted to the usual tactics.

It works!

It was two hours later that the upstream rod was in action. This was a lovely solid fish of nine pounds four. Yet another with marks near its tail. Marks which it's been suggested could have been caused by lamprey. It only seems to be fish on this particular length that are affected though. Or maybe I've not caught enough elsewhere?

The downstream rod was fishing two 8mm crab pellets now, rather than the single pellet I had been favouring most of the season. Not for any well thought out reason but because I'd tied the hairs on a bunch of rigs to suit 10mm boilies - and using a pellet stop extended them just enough to get two 8mm predrilled pellets on with enough of a gap to the bend of the hook. At nine o'clock the double pellets were taken. This felt like a good fish. Number 99 was in the bag. It took line and plodded. Then everything wend solid. No matter what I did I couldn't free the fish. I couldn't even feel it when I fed slack line. The rig came back with a straightened hook. That'll teach me to count my barbel before they're landed.

Twenty minutes later I was shaking an eel free from the same rig. After clearing eel slime from the hooklink I recast and almost straight away was playing a six pounder. I was getting that old wanderlust again. The snagged fish, and lack of much action to the upstream rod, had set me thinking that I might be better off moving down a few yards so what would then be the upstream rod could fish where the downstream rod was now, with a better chance of keeping fish away from whatever the snag was. The other rod could then be cast downstream, possibly to where more fish were holed up. As I considered this the pellets were away again. This was almost a repeat of the first fish that snagged me, except that I could feel the line gradually plucking over things before it all seized up. The difference was that I could feel the fish when I gave it slack. What to do?

Putting the rod on the rest and slacking the baitrunner I started to move the rest of my gear downstream. At one point the fish took some line. I played it back to the snag and moved the rest of my stuff. Returning to the snagged fish there was no sign of life. The rod was picked up, I pulled, fully expecting that locked up feeling, yet something gave. I pulled again. It moved again. Had the hook become attached to the snag and I was dragging it out? The snag pulled back a bit. Could the fish be free? I took it easy, not knowing what state the line might be in. When the fish wanted to take line I let it. However it didn't want to take much and the fight was unspectacular. As soon as I netted the fish I knew I'd reached my century with a top edged six over the slips!

After stripping off my fleece from under the bunny suit, it was warmer now even when not rushing around setting up the camera, I photographed and returned the fish. Then baits were cast out in the new swim and a refreshing brew drunk.

The only time I get the logo in the shot!

A done deal

After half an hour the upstream rod, which had been the downstream rod, was off. Despite my cunning plan I felt the line pinging off something snaggy. Then the fish fell off. So much for that idea. I moved again, to the banker swim, realising that if I had only gone fishing to hit my arbitrary target I'd have packed up there and then rather than move twice in an effort to catch more barbel. The night was a real peach. Overcast, a few stars showing, warm, dry (no precipitation or condensation), and barbel on the feed. It would have been a good night to stop until dawn. The downstream rod was on the boilie now, and one bag of pellets left in the bucket. Off went the boilie. Yet another nicely conditioned fish that I weighed, at 6-14, out of curiosity.

Out with the last PVA mesh bag and give it until midnight. The rods were still, apart from a savage pull to the boilie rod that looked for all the world like it was going to carry on but didn't. When I wound in the pellet rod I saw why it hadn't been moving. The pellets were gone. The boilie rod was snagged - probably after that take - and all the rig was lost. A wasted last half hour. Not to worry though, it had been a good and very enjoyable session. I felt satisfied that I'd made the most of this Indian Summer that has seen the river low and the ground hard and dusty, that I wan't fishing just to attain targets but because I enjoy it and all that being by the water brings. It really is a magnificent obsession.

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Monday, September 21, 2009

Too much of a good thing?

The England one-day team had made a right meal of beating the Aussies in the final match of the series, signalling a belated end to summer. With no prospect of cricket on the radio until November and the sun heading rapidly for the horizon I risked the motorway, which was almost empty. Down the lane past a patch of mushrooms, a sure sign that the mellow days of autumn are upon us, and off along the bank with my rucksack on my back. The brolly having been left at home so I could sprint to the swims before it got dark. I was wondering where the occupants of the other car in the car park might be when some crows flew up from the 'beach'. My preferred swim would be free. This time I wanted to fish a little further downstream, although I couldn't tell you why.

Fungi are sprouting everywhere

I hadn't tied up any new rigs, even though I'd opened up a hook on one of them when winding in at the end of my last session. So much for my good intentions. The other rig had managed to tie itself in a knot around the rod and mainline at some point. The rig board was looking bare, but there was one in there with a boilie still attached, so I put that on the rod with the opened out hook and cast it downstream. Then I cut off the other rig and replaced it with one that would take a small pellet and cast it upstream.

There was decided chill in the air, but to save me working up a sweat on the way to the swim I had carried the bunny suit in my chair. Now it was time to put it on - the suit, not the chair. With the river so low and so clear there'd be no action until dark. I'd be safe enough taking my boots off to get the suit on. I was much warmer with the cosy, quilted suit around me but I hadn't laced one boot up when the boilie rod hooped over and the reel spun. I managed to reach the rod without tripping over my feet but the fish cut me off almost immediately. Damn and double damn.

After tying the laces I rigged up again with the original hooklink and bait that had been tangled, and recast. Then I set to tying up a few hooklink before it went dark. It's obvious that I was never a boy scout because I soon ran out of braid, which I had been meaning to replenish for over a week...

I hadn't got the first rig tied when the boilie rod was away again. As soon as I made contact this time I gave the fish no quarter. Mishaps were avoided and a barbel of about seven pounds was unhooked in the net and slid back. It still wasn't dark. I managed to get three rigs on the rig board without further interuption then started bagging pellets. This didn't go undisturbed as the boilie rod was off again. A slightly smaller fish this time. Not yet eight o'clock and three takes.

The frenzy didn't continue. The action was like the night - quiet. Fishing on a sandy/silty bank is nice in as much as there's no slugs to bother you, but the grit gets everywhere. As soon as anything gets wet it's covered in the stuff. Putting reels down has to be done with care so they stay off the ground. Getting the banksticks in securely is a pain too as the silt overlies pebbles. A bit of wiggling around is required to prevent them from toppling over on a take.

The next take didn't come for an hour. I'd been watching the motionless isotopes and decided on a recast. The boilie was missing. No wonder I hadn't had a take. A fresh bait and bag were rigged up and cast out. I went for a stroll along the sand to stretch my legs and had to run back to the rod as the boilie had been taken. The trend is continuing of takes within minutes of casting out. This fish plodded around and even got upstream of me for a while. When netted I thought I'd be needing the camera again. My judgement really has gone to pot. Just under nine pounds, and maybe a little on the thin side.

When the sky cleared it became noticeably cooler. Being a few days after a new moon the stars were bright and there were no features visible amongst the trees on the wooded bank opposite. Then the mist started to rise from the river. As it swirled and thickened my hopes began to fade. Maybe it's a confidence thing, but I don't like mist on the water. A few clouds appeared briefly, the mist clearing, the upstream rod, now fishing two 8mm pellets, tapped. A skinny chub was landed. I hoped the mist would stay away but it came back. I was starting to not enjoy myself. I was starting to be there just to catch those four barbel that would take me to 100 for the season. It was time to pack up before the men in the white coats came to get me. The rods were in the quiver, I spun the rucksack on my back, cast a glance at the water and saw the mist had gone. I resisted the temptation to get a rod out and give it another hour. An early night would do me good.

I'll be attending the PAC Convention this coming Saturday, so I should be getting my act together sorting stuff out for that this week. A rest from the river will do me no harm - if I take one.

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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Time to change down a gear?

Six o'clock sneaked up on my unexpectedly. Time would be tight to get to the river and set up in daylight as I was going to give Buzzard Bend another bash and there's the walk to the swims to take into consideration. I searched for something to eat before setting off but couldn't find anything I fancied. The chippy beckoned. There was a queue. By the time I had wolfed down the chips and sausage it was ten to seven. Still, the roads would be clear. The stretch I was heading for is most easily reached via the motorway so that was the route I took. To be faced with a slow moving tailback. Great.

The traffic kept flowing but when I reached the junction before mine I could see it snarled up well ahead. On to the slip road and put a hastily thought out Plan B into action. Back to the stretch I fished on Thursday and if the car park was full again try a spot I've had my eye on for a while but never seen anyone fish. With the level low it could be worth a dabble. As luck would have it there was just one car and the white van that seems to be a permanent fixture parked up. With the light starting to fade I'd fish a banker swim.

The air was cooling. I'd watched the read out drop three degrees on my journey to the river. With no need to rush I put the bunny suit on for the first time this season in anticipation of the clear sky causing a further drop in temperature later. The upstream swim was free so I dropped in there, just about managing to get set up without the aid of my head torch.

The evening star shone. It grew cooler. Dew began to form. As nine o'clock approached I reached for my fleece. With both arms out of the bunnysuit the upstream rod came alive. As I played the fish the suit slowly slipped down to my knees and beyond. Thank goodness the fish wasn't a big one. Even so it gave a good account of itself and got downstream to catch the other line which set the rod bouncing. Or so I thought. With the fish safely netted I looked to see where the lines were tangled when a baitrunner burst into song. It had been a take, not a tangle!

Hopping to the rod as if in a sack race I wound down, felt the fish, then it all went solid. Phew. The rod was propped against its rest and the reel flicked into free spool. The first fish was safe so I pulled the suit up and got myself mobile again. When the first fish was returned EH arrived on the scene having just packed up and pointed out that the snagged rod was bouncing. Gingerly I picked it up. The fish had come free. It didn't put up any resistance although it was a wee bit bigger than the first fish. EH left and I now had the river to myself. Once the mayhem was sorted out I put the fleece on and then cast out!

I got to thinking how the average size of fish seemed to have dropped recently. Earlier in the season there had been few of the scamps and scampettes showing up. Now they were commonplace. Was this a seasonal movement? Did the bigger fish move out of this stretch or the small ones move in? Or maybe the big fish feed harder early on as they need more building up after spawning and the small fish don't get a look in?

Over the next hour and a half a chub and small barbel came to the party, but it was a dull affair. The best option was to make my excuses and leave in order to gatecrash a more lively bash. I stowed my gear and moved to the swim that EH had vacated. The baits, a 15mm boilie and an 8mm crab pellet, were cast out well apart before I settled down.

In the upstream swim I had felt restless and uncertain, now I was relaxed and confident. It must only have been fifteen minutes before the upstream pellet rod was away. All the recent fish have been pulling well. Perhaps it's the cooling but not cold water, perhaps the clarity, but six pounders have given me the run-around at times. This fish was certainly doing that. It was ticking line off the drag too. I struggled a bit to slide it all over the net but it wasn't until I lifted the frame that I began to get an inkling of it's true size.

Lean 'n' mean

The needle on the Avons spun round a bit further than I had expected. I must be getting blasé. These eleven pounders don't look as big as they used to do. In the sack with the cord well staked out I took my time calming and cooling down and arranging the camera. When the fish was photographed and released peace returned. Only briefly as the boilie rod tore off before I could sit down. The fish was on for a second or two, then gone. I rebaited both rods and cast back out.

By now I was feeling warmer. Glancing skywards the stars had disappeared. Looking round there was complete cloud cover. That would explain it' and why the dew hadn't got any heavier. Then the boilie was off again. Another battling six pounder was released and the rig baited and bagged. Time for another bagging session to the accompaniment of distant dogs barking. Something must have been disturbing them as I haven't heard such constant barking, from many directions, before.

There were six or seven neatly, and untidily, filled mesh bags of pellets in the bucket when I flung it aside to deal with the boilie rod. This fish didn't take much line, hardly any, but was dogged. A plumpster of fish but not too long. Looking down on it I gave it nine, maybe. It was a heavy lift though. For the second time I was out in my guestimate, and for the second time the needle spun well round. A few ounces further this time. So much for the bigger fish having gone or switched off...

With the fish sacked I stripped off my fleece. I was sweating like mad. The camera didn't take much setting up this time as I'd left the bulb release bracket attached. For the second time I put my new camo brolly up as a background - just for the hell of it rather than to hide anything, it being pitch black anyway. Looking at the photos I might as well not have bothered!

Fat 'n' lazy

By now it was midnight. Another hour and if nothing else came along I'd head home. One more six pounder at quarter past was followed by chub knocks. That was the signal to wrap it in. I was rather glad the motorway had been congested and changed my plans for me after that lot! It goes to show that being flexible pays. At least it does for me when it comes to barbel. With pike it never seemed to. Other people would move and drop on fish. I wouldn't. Mates would twitch their deadbaits and get takes. I'd twitch mine and find the only snag on the lake. With barbel I make a change - bait, swim, river even - and fish come along. Not every time, but often enough to make me willing to do it on a regular basis. Funny game, fishing.

The Dutch have their metresnoek, for Americans its 50 inch muskies, when it comes to barbel for us it's ten pounds. It's strange how we set great store by round figures. I have been telling myself that when I got to ten doubles for the season I'd have a change of venue or species. The trouble is that it's difficult to stop when you're catching. Then again, when you're catching maybe that's the best time to try something else before burning out? I suppose the alternative is to stay home and do some work. The garage really could do with a lick of paint. I'll just refill the pellet bucket and tie some more hooklinks, then I'll find the white gloss...

PS - It's that fish again... and that one!

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Friday, September 18, 2009

I was hoping it would rain

At long last my two new brollies had arrived at the tackle shop. I went to collect them last week, but the suppliers had sent the wrong ones. For some time I've been using a 45" umbrella to save on weight on long riverbank hikes and a 50" job for shorter walks and day sessions after other species when I haven't fancied carting the Aqua brolly around. The 45 incher was starting to fall apart. I'd repaired two of the rib hinges with bent wire and the screw in bit of the pole had a habit of pulling out the brass insert it fits in. The 50 incher just annoyed me as the cover isn't tight and in a wind it flaps irritatingly.

The two I had ordered were a replacement 45 incher and a 50 inch glassfibre ribbed camo patterned one. The idea was to have the small one for the river where swims can be tight and walks long, and the Fibre-lite for lengthy sessions while still keeping the weight down. I'd have preferred the flat back version but it's a grey colour with garish orange writing on it. Okay for matchmen in their fancy dress suits but not my cup of tea.

With the brollies finally back home I thought I'd weigh them, mainly because the new 50 incher felt lighter than the smaller one. It was. A whole pound lighter. I weighed my old 45 inch brolly and found that weighed the same as the new Fibre-lite. Anyone want to buy a heavy 45 inch brolly? Out of curiosity I weighed the old 50 inch umbrella to find that was the heaviest of the lot. Oh well.

Despite no rain being forecast I slipped the new umbrella in the quiver thinking it might keep the damp off me later as I was planning to stop longer than usual. I also threw the bunny suit in the back of the car as the last few sessions had been getting a little cooler. After Monday's blank I was off to a banker stretch and thought I'd have another play with my Torrixes and this time try out my shiny XTE-A reels. I didn't buy them for barbel fishing but was itching to see what they were like in action.

I rolled into the car park before seven to find a load of vehicles parked up and what looked to me like two anglers packing up. I took my time getting the tackle out of the car when I realised they were getting ready to fish.

Back in the 80's when I fished a few really popular pike lakes in the north west it was imperative to arrive early to get the best swims. Even then you might find someone was there before you. My mates and I used to be so organised we could be out of the car, loaded up and away in seconds. We'd drive to the venue wearing our fishing clobber, everything else would be stripped to a minimum so all we had to do was jump out of the car, put rucksack on back, rods over shoulder, lock the car and go. And we'd walk fast. Nobody stood a chance!

Old habits die hard. The car door was locked, the bunny suit left behind (I could go back for it later) and I was off. Once in the meadow I got my bearings and was in the swim I fancied (I knew a couple were likely to be taken already) before the other blokes had reached the water. Job done. I put my gear down and went for a wander to see if I fancied somewhere else! When it turned out I knew the guys I'd beaten to the river I must admit I felt a bit guilty. But those old habits are deeply ingrained. Worms get caught by the early birds.

The Torrixes needed rigging up. I used a length of the mainline for the upper hooklink, and was contemplating using some for the lower too with the river being clear, but time was pressing so I put braided links on. The first rod cast out had a five pellet snake for the first time this season and was cast downstream. I was still tacking up the second rod when I heard a quiet purring sound and looked round to see the rod arched over. This is becoming a habit, a take on the first cast.

Not a big fish but one of the reels christened. The second rod was cast upstream with a 15mm boilie on the hair. At eight fifteen that rod tip indicated a dithery bite. Not like a chub bite, and hard to describe. When I picked the rod up there was nothing to be felt but the lead. When I swung the rig in the lower link and swivel were gone. It looked like knot failure, the line having a curly end. Mysterious.

It was quiet. No chub raps or anything. It was mild though, nay it was warm. The air was still the cloud cover heavy and I didn't need to put my fleece on until nine. Twenty minutes later the downstream XTEA purred again. Everything about these reels is quiet and smooth. The baitrunner lever doesn't click positively into place (which made me uncertain it was engaged), the baitrunner clicker and drag are almost inaudible, the handle turns as if on ice, and the drag is silky. I don't like them! The clicker is so quiet it would never wake you. Perhaps it's people who use these reels who always use bite alarms? You'd need them if you were going to nod off. They'll be ideal for bream fishing though, which is what I bought them for. I prefer something more workmanlike for barbel and pike fishing.

Nice - but not naughty enough for me

I took the opportunity to appraise the Torrixes a little more this time too. They definitely have a suggestion of lock-up in the lower butt. Again not what I like for barbel fishing but ideal for breaming. They'll be put away now until spring I think.

After that second fish, which had been a real baby of a couple of pounds, I started to feel restless. I wanted to move down a swim but the water there was so shallow with the ever dropping riveer level that I'd have had to wade out to net a fish. The peg below it was deeper but more awkward to fish from and a bit further down than I wanted to go. After much staring at the swims I chose to set up in between the two pegs.

I put the landing net at the water's edge in the second swim where netting fish would be easy and put the banksticks on top of the bank. The downstream rod was cast below the landing net, and the upstream one well above it. If I got a fish I would have plenty of room for manoeuvre to walk to the net. Having used my last two mesh bags of pellets I sat down and opened the pellet bucket, got out the bag filler and heard that now familiar purring. The boilie cast downstream had done the business. Another moderately sized barbel was in the net and I was reaching for the forceps. Was that a kitten? No. It was an XTEA! The snake had been taken by a slightly bigger barbel. Yet again takes coming within minutes of casting into new spots.

Twenty minutes later there was a funny indication to the boilie rod. It was a tremulous pulling down of the tip then nothing. This was repeated a time or two before I risked picking the rod up half expecting an eel. It turned out to be the biggest barbel of the night. Around the seven pound mark.

The next bite was an hour in coming and was a typical chub bite that resulted in a typical chub, followed half an hour later by its twin. It had gone midnight but I still hadn't needed to put on my bib and brace for warmth. I gave it until quarter to one then gave up. More barbel might have come along later, but when the chub switch on late it's usually an omen that the barbel have switched off.

The car's thermometer showed the temperature had only dropped three degrees. Still, 12.5 had felt cold on other nights. I can only think that it was the cloud cover and lack of wind that had helped it feel so warm. However, there had been no dampness forming on the rods or tackle box lid. The car was free of dew and the grass quite dry. I must look into the factors that govern the 'dew point'* as it affects mist/fog and I think that has some bearing on catches, so there might be a correlation.

* I've looked. I'm none the wiser!

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A step too far, worn joints, and other things

Rather than head back where I'd fished on Sunday, like a sane person would, I headed upriver on Monday for a late session. It's not often that I fish on consecutive days. But the obsessive fire was burning. It was inevitable. As was the outcome.

The river looked to have dropped even more judging by the waterline on the stones and was running very clear. I wanted to try the hemp and pellet attack again. Two tins of hemp and an equal amount of my pellet mix were droppered in, then one boilie cast over it with another upstream. The barbel would soon be queuing up to get caught.

Bats were on the wing well before dark as they are at this time of year. I suppose the cooling nights mean that insect activity reduces as the night wears on, so the bats start feeding earlier. They must need feeding up in readiness for their winter rest. Every now and then one would hit one of the lines and set me leaping to the rod. That was about the limit of the action to be honest.

Although the sky was clear and starry, the evening star shining particularly brightly as it travelled westward, the night was mild at first. Later on a wind sprang up and the air turned cool. For some reason it didn't feel like anything was going to happen. A few chub bites came to the downstream rod in the last hour before I packed up at midnight.

A blank session was long overdue. Here's hoping the next one is as long coming. It did make me wonder if the change of tactics is a good idea. The baiting up doesn't seem to be improving things compared to the PVA bag only approach. I shouldn't have tried mending something that wasn't bust.

I had great plans for the rest of this week. Work would be done by Tuesday and the river would be my home for the next few days. Long overdue blanks arrived on Tuesday and put paid to that. Even post-teatime starts have been scuppered by customers wishing to collect their rods late on. So it's time for more rod building thoughts.

The worn joints of the title aren't my ageing knees and hips but those of my Chimera barbel rods, the tips of which have been snugging down almost to the limit the painted blanks allow for about twelve months. I'd noticed them work loose a time or two recently, so it was time to take remedial action. The solution is simple graphite spray. Most tackle shops catering for match anglers will stock one brand or other.

Look after those joints man

Tape up the part of the rod you don't want the spray to go on with masking tape, then apply an even coat to the male part of the joint. Leave to dry for a couple of hours or longer and away you go. Not only is the joint built up it is lubricated too. A much better cure than getting the hacksaw out and trimming the tip section back.

Recently I had a float rod in to have a new ring fitted to the middle section. This was a good example of the fragility of single leg rings - the missing ring had snapped, and another was bent almost flat to the rod. While float rod rings have very light frames I have seen the same happen with single leg rings on carp rods. Anyone who tells you they don't get bent must molly coddle their tackle.

While I had the rod in I gave it a look over and saw the cork handle still had the clear shrink tube on it. This is only there to keep the handle clean in transit and while on show in the tackle shop. The plastic film is supposed to be removed before the rod is used. I shouldn't have been surprised as I often see anglers fishing with shiny cork handles. If water gets under the tube it soaks into the cork which stays damp and eventually rots. In any case, the whole point of a cork handle is to have the warm feel of the cork. It seems ridiculous to cover it in cold, slippy plastic. The daftest example I have seen was a salmon angler 'stringing up' his new looking Hardy speycaster. Not only was the cork covered in shrink tube, but there was a piece of paper under the shrink. I bet if it had been a fiver he'd have stripped the plastic off pretty quickly!

Now a look at how things have changed over the last couple of decades. Another refurb job I have to do is on a NorthWestern glass-fibre pike rod. I think it's an SS6 - 11ft, 2.5lb. In it's day a highly desirable rod to own. I had the 3lb PK3, which I guess was rolled on the same mandrel. Putting the SS6 alongside a Harrison blank of similar length and test curve the difference is remarkable. The butt section of the carbon rod is about the same diameter as the tip of the glass rod! And the actions... The SS6 was considered a pokerish fast action rod. It feels terribly floppy now.

Spot the glass rod

It's odd how fashions come and go in fishing rods. The SS6 has nine rings plus the tip, which was pretty much standard. Today an eleven footer would probably have five or six if it was being built for piking, or eight if it was a barbel/specimen rod. Fashion again, probably to do with the perception that pike rods need fewer, larger, rings in order to cast greater distances than barbel rods do.

There is no one 'correct' way to ring a rod, but the aim is always to place the butt ring where line flows freely from the reel (be it fixed spool, multiplier or centrepin) and then follows the curve of the rod, compromise being made in the number of rings which give long casting, smooth line flow when trotting a float or whatever the rod is intended to do. In the case of a rod to be used with a multiplier the rings must be spaced to keep the line away from the blank, as it must on afloat rod to be used with light lines that might stick to the blank when wet. All these ringing patterns consider the rod as it is when fishing - in one piece.

So when Neville Fickling someone says the 'correct' way to ring a pike rod is so the rod folds neatly in two when broken down rigged up with the tip ring next to the butt cap (what I call Rover Ringing) he is demonstrably wrong. It's certainly convenient for the mobile angler, I like my rods made that way too, but it is not correct.

'Rover Ringing'

Here endeth the sermon.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

One more time for luck

With the weather holding I simply couldn't resist another barbel session. Getting to the river after tea with enough daylight left to sort myself out in is becoming a tighter call every day. It won't be long before I'm having to pack some grub along with the flask so I can set off before the rush hour traffic builds up. Sundays aren't so bad and I left home around six to arrive in time to get some bait in the water around seven. This time it was pellets I spodded out to the deep run I had almost moved into last time out.

The sun was bright and low, my shadow long across the field as I walked up river. The leaves are really starting to turn to their russet and earth colours now. A few martins were feeding high above the tree tops. It won't be long before they are gone and it'll be time to start looking out for redwings and fieldfares.

Autumn's under way

The feed was put out directly in front of my fishing position. Then I took my time arranging things so I'd be comfortable and able to reach the rods easily. One rod, with a 15mm boilie and a bag, was cast upstream of the baited area. A smaller boilie went just downstream. I missed the first five minutes of the Archers while baiting up, but I sat down and poured the first cup of flask-tea of the evening to listen to the rest of it before the bag filling ritual was carried out.

My chill-out period was disturbed by an angry baitrunner and a well bent rod. The big bait had only been in the water for ten minutes! The level was down on Friday, the flow minimal. In clear water it's hard to judge the size of fish - they can look a lot smaller than they are in actuality. This 'five pounder' was giving a good account of itself. Hardly surprising as when netted it would obviously require a mugshot. A solid, but not fat, barbel in prime autumn condition. Looking just the way they should.

After unhooking and weighing the fish it was dunked back in the river, the net safely staked. It would be the first time out with my new bulb release bracket. After a bit of fiddling around I had it all sorted, took a test shot to ensure everything worked fine, then lifted a lively fish back onto the mat. Three snaps then in the sling to be carried upstream to a spot where I could safely release her. It was only as she swam away I noticed the slight two-tone colouration

That's supposed to be a smile...

Convinced I was on for a beano with the feed I'd put in I concentrated my attention on the downstream rod, which was now fishing the old faithful 8mm crab Pellet-O. It was nine o'clock before anything happened other than a few chub raps at dusk. The upstream rod had stabbed down repeatedly but everything was solid when I picked the rod up. Feeling the line I could tell there was no fish attached. I could feel the lead bumping up and down on the river bed when I pulled on the line and released it, but everything was lost when I pulled for a break. Over an hour later the bite was repeated. This time there was neither fish nor snag attached. I recast and the culprit was captured. A chub that was probably five pounds long, only four pounds heavy.

Eat more pellets

The sky had clouded over and the night was almost warm. One of those nights I could easily have stayed right through to dawn. As there wasn't much happening I wondered if I should pack in early. I was still there an hour later, still wondering when to leave. The downstream rod, which had been fishing a variety of baits and was now on a 10mm Oyster and Mussel boilie cast well down from where the bait had gone in, came alive. This was a five pound barbel, although it pulled well for its size. I'd definitely pack in at midnight. With five minutes to go the same rod began doing a chub dance. Only a smallish one. That rod was packed away and the other one followed. I battled my way through the balsam, being showered with seeds as I did so, then set off across the fields to the deserted car park.

Although the moon wasn't visible and there was cloud cover it was a light night. I stood and looked back through the trees, over the hedge at the fields and woods, wondering what I must have looked like had an 'ordinary' person seen me tramping in the dark laden with tackle, only using the head torch to negotiate ruts and stiles. It's not a 'normal' thing to do in this day and age. There were few lights on in the houses I drove past on my way home. Fewer people or cars out and about. Even the motorway that had been choked on Friday was almost deserted. Which suits me fine.

The problem I have is that when the fishing is going well I find it addictive, and I'm weak. Oh so weak.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

The night of the cow pat

My plan to do an overnighter on Saturday, returning in time to listen to the Test Match on Sunday, went out of the window when the brickie phoned to say he was coming to do some more pointing. No fishing on Saturday. Sunday dawned wet up north, but fine at the Oval. By the time England had humiliated the Aussies I had done some work and was raring to wet a line. The persistent rain had turned to showers, it being dry as I set off. Would there have been enough rain, early enough, to have coloured and raised the river? No. It was even lower and clearer than on my last visit.

Swim choice was difficult. Only the cows were on the bank and I could fish anywhere. I opted for a swim that I had only ever fished before in flood conditions. Then I had taken barbel from under the rod end, but now that was shallow and I was casting across to the tail of the gully. Deeper upstream, shallower downstream.

I took my time arranging the gear in the swim. There's a ledge that can be fished from but it's cramped. Setting up above it would raise the rods and help keep the line out of the rocks anyway. The problem was a large, crusty, cowpat in exactly the place I wanted to sit. I put my chair more or less on top of it. Two baits were out by eight. One was an S-Pellet Tuff 1, the other a 10mm Tuna Wrap - a bait I have little faith in, but seeing as I was sent four tubs of them I might as well give them a try.

It had started to drizzle. As I'd left my feeders and dry feeder-mix in the car I set to making up some PVA bags under the brolly. With the river being so clear I thought I'd tie up a mono hooklink to see if that would give me a better chance of a bite in daylight. I had a hook selected and the spool of Power Carp ready when the upstream rod was away. The Tuff 1 had been snaffled by a lively scamp that was hustled into the net. As I lifted the net from the water I heard the baitrunner on the other rod start whirring. The net was popped back in the water, arranged hastily to prevent an escape, and a second little barbel, maybe half a pound heavier, joined the first one in the net. That hadn't taken long!

With the water being so clear they were both bright looking fish, the oft mentioned coral fins complementing brass, gold and bronze scales and creamy belly. I admired the pair briefly before unhooking them both and slipping them back over the net cord. I was going to take a photo of the brace, but the battery in the Olympus compact was flat and I couldn't be bothered getting the other camera out.

The drizzle turned to rain. It was dark by now, still warm despite the wind rustling the leaves of the trees making a sound barely distinguishable from that of the water tumbling over the rapids downstream. Not a good night for bats, but one or two came out to feed. There were plenty of midges about for them. Midges that feasted on me every time I flicked on the Petzl.

I'd swapped the rods round and replaced the Tuff 1 with a 15mm Mussel and Oyster boilie. The boilie I had positioned close in. There had been a few fish swirling there when I arrived. Although shallow, it appeared to be a little deeper near the bank than a rod length out. Some pellets had been scattered there in preparation.

When setting out my little camp I hadn't placed the chair quite right. Every time I stood up my feet went through the crust of the cowpat and I'd slip. Breaking the skin on the dung also released it's aroma. Enough was enough and I moved brolly back a touch and the rest of the gear was dragged into position to keep it dry. Much better.

At ten, to my surprise, the 10mm Tuna Wrap that had been cast upstream tore off. This barbel was a little bit larger. Maybe six, maybe seven pounds. Somewhere in that range. Fifteen minutes later the margin rod hooped over. At first I thought it was a small barbel, but it was chub. A pristine fish of four pounds or so.

I gave up on the margins and cast out across the river. Almost straight away the bait was taken and I leaned into a barbel that cut me off half way up the three foot hooklink. I've not been cut off like that for ages and was a little bit annoyed. A 15lb Amnesia upper hooklink was tied on and the 12lb Power Carp lower link I'd tied up earlier added to see how it performed. I never found out. After a decent wait I went to wind in for a recast and the rig was snagged solid. The Power Carp snapped, and the Amnesia was frayed. I trimmed the frayed section and attached a braided lower link. At eleven the new rig did the job and I weighed a belligerent eight pounder that refused to come to the net. It even looked angry on the bank and swam of contemptuously when I released it upstream. That fish had an attitude problem!

After an hour of inactivity, the sky having cleared to reveal the constellations beyond a few wispy clouds, I got an urge to move upstream a few yards. Hardly had the Tuna Wrap settled in the new spot when it was taken. A funny take. The rod tip dipped and the baitrunner spun, then nothing. A repeat and I grabbed the rod and pulled into the fish. Then it was gone. Cut off again, this time near the hook. I couldn't believe it. It only took five minutes for the fresh bait and rig to work their magic. Another six pound barbel which proved to be my fiftieth of the season.

That was enough for me. I'd had to get a session in before I went doolally as I'm not sure when my next chance to fish will be. I reckon it's time to start looking for some bigger fish when I get that chance.

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