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Monday, March 01, 2010

Dace rig update

I thought a photo might help explain the simple helicopter rig I was using for the dace and roach. Hooklink to the left, mainline (6lb) to the right, and feeder link (5lb) to the bottom. The feeder link is shorter than the hooklink, but all lengths open to modification.

Easy peasy heli-feeder rig

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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Back in the groove

My recent return to the photographic world has reminded me that going out looking for photographs is a lot like going fishing. You set out with good intentions but the elements and other factors mean there is no guarantee of success. Saturday morning saw me up and out bright and early hoping to make good use of the promised sunshine to get some pixels organised. The sun came along, but not for long. I did have a cunning plan though...

A tree yesterday

I'd gone for a walk along the river, it would have risen on Friday and it might have warmed too so it was worth investigating. Accompanying my camera gear on the walk was my thermometer. The first stop at the edge of a nicely coloured and dropping river was to throw the thermometer in the water. It didn't take long for me to decide not to return with the rods for a while. 2.9C was far from encouraging, and the distant fells still had a faint covering of snow that would be entering the river some time soon.

When the sun went into hiding, to be replaced by light rain, I was on my way home and thence to the tackle shop where the talk was of torrential rain and gale force winds for today. The consensus was that I was mad to be buying maggots to use for roach. My intention was to wait and see what the morning brought and either head to the river if it looked set fair or to a stillwater if it bode ill.

As things turned out the foul weather was in the south (hurrah!!!) so I could get a couple of small glueing jobs done, make some sarnies and pack my gear in the car to arrive after the turn of the tide. Two cars were parked up with only one angler in sight. He'd caught a couple of chub and told me he didn't fish maggots on this stretch because the dace did his head in.

After arranging my gear in the claggy clay I cast out a single white maggot on a 16 and my usual feeder rig, the feeder being filled with old maggots, their attendant casters, and micro trout pellets. Then I ate my first salami bun and recast. As I was pouring the first flask-tea of the day the quiver tip commenced a-dancing. A nicely conditioned roach of about six or eight ounces. I was fishing a close in line to start with. If I start catching from there and then bites dry up casting further out usually brings renewed action. I prefer to do it that way than start in mid river and come closer. I'm not sure why.

Eye. Aye.

The rig I was using had been trouble free when used with a heavier hooklink for chubbing. While it was tangle-free initially with a light hooklength it had soon started to twist around the lead link and tangle on previous sessions. From there on it spiralled (pun intended) downhill. Tying on a fresh hooklink would sort it temporarily but it was a pain. Why I hadn't switched to a helicopter variantI can only put down to pig-headedness or laziness. This time I made the switch.

It was so simple. A small swivel trapped between two Drennan Grippa Stops on the main line. Another swivel tied to the end of the mainline and the feeder attached to that via a link of slightly weaker mono. The hooklink is looped to the rotating swivel, after having a cut down large Korum rig sleeve (the small ones are too small) slid on to it. The rig sleeve is pushed over the rotating swivel and makes a bit of a boom. It works. Talk about kicking myself.

It was almost an hour later before another fish came along. A dace that didn't looks as big as the ones I'd neglected to weigh last month, so I weighed it. 5.5oz. Or thereabouts. A second dace was weighed at an ounce more. That one didn't look as big as the unweighed ones either. Then I hooked something that tore off downstream, hung in the flow and came adrift as I applied too much pressure trying to pull it upstream. I reckoned it was a chub until I hooked another fish that did something similar. This time I took it easy and allowed the fish to make its own way upstream. It turned out to be a pound-plus roach, and hadn't felt as heavy as the lost fish. A smaller roach was followed by another heavy feeling fish that I took my time with. This one was a chub, of about a pound and a half. I hadn't a clue what I'd lost.

Fred keeps an eye on the rod tip while I eat my sarnies

By now I was fishing further out, about a third of the way across. Bites came with increasing regularity as the afternoon wore on. Mostly dace, two of which looked more like the ones from last month and weighed eight ounces and a fraction less. The bigger fish upped my PB - the first of the year. It still didn't quite seem as big as one I had returned unweighed. Maybe there wasn't much in it, but enough.

The top of a Ruckbag makes a good unhooking mat for small species

Despite a bitterly cold wind I wasn't feeling uncomfortable. I only noticed my toes starting to numb when I thought about them! Getting plenty of bites is a great way to get back into the swing of fishing. In among the dace and dropped fish was another roach of some six ounces. Had I remembered my keepnet I'd have amassed quite a netful. The sky had been grey but cloudy until the sun began to set. For the first time in ages there was a colourful sunset during which fish began to top all along the river.

A disgorger behind the ear is a sure sign of plenty of action

My flask was all but drained, the food long gone. Bites were still coming so my departure time kept getting put back. At five to six, with still enough light to allow the Petzl to stay in the Ruckbag, I hooked something heavy again. I took my time wondering if it was a roach or a chub. the grey dorsal that sliced through the water's surface gave the game away. Only about a pound, but on light tackle with a small hook there's no way to bully these fish in a strong flow. I'd tidied most of the gear away so the recast would be the last.

Hardly had the feeder settled when the tip bounced the upstream self-hooked fish bounce. A shoal of chub must have moved in as a fish that felt just like the previous one got itself in the flow downstream a rod length out. There was still enough colour in the river to make it difficult to see fish until they were almost at the surface. When this one boiled I was sure there was a flash of red, but the light was fading fast. I eased off a little, just in case. When I did catch a definite sight of the roach I was starting to consider prayer.

Not the biggest roach in the world, not even big by some people's standards, it was the best of the day and a great way to end my first session in what seems like ages. I'd finished with 22 fish after a slow start - two chub, five roach and the rest dace. My head was well and truly done in!

Homage to Vincent

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Still wintry

Blackbirds are singing before daybreak, the days are lengthening, the light is more springlike and buds are showing on the trees. It's still bloody cold though! With no rain predicted and the sun shining I set off to try for the roach and dace again. On arriving there was a strong wind blowing straight downstream, coming from the north, with a touch of east for good measure. Like a fool I had left the umbrella behind. Not to worry. I was well wrapped up with Baffin boots, two fleeces, bunny suit and all. Topped off with balaclava and woolly hat.

Some reeds today

This time the swim was not a muddy morass, it was hard as concrete. Frozen solid. The river was running clear and I was able to hold easily with a 30g feeder filled with the usual hemp, micro trout pellets and maggots. Two hours later the tip hadn't moved, no maggots had been sucked, and the wind was chilling my bones. However the water temperature was rising fast. At the start of the session it was reading 2.2C, by the time I moved upstream to get some shelter from the wind (and to try a deeper spot), it had risen to 2.6C. The water temp carried on rising, peaking at 2.9C. The air temperature didn't follow the same trend, and after three o'clock it started to drop.

A couple of half-hearted flurries of sleet blew in. The wind did ease off after I moved. The only activity was from the birdlife. A couple of robins seemed glad of the maggots I threw them, and a skittish pied wagtail flitted from side to side of the swim. By half four I reckoned there might be a chance of a chub towards dusk, and the roach might switch on too. The clear water was all I could think of that was putting the fish off, so lower light levels might make them more amenable.

I swapped the size sixteen for a ten and pinched some bread on the hook. I left the maggots out of the feeder. First put in and the tip moved. A tentative spring back. Nothing. By half four my feet, even in the toasty boots, were telling me to go home. With it still a way off dusk I packed up at five. I guess I should have made a later start so I'd have been more willing to stick at it until dark. I don't think next time will be tomorrow though.

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Not quite what I intended, but it'll do

After some study of the 'dace' photograph and a couple of second opinions I came to the conclusion that they were dace. That their size and chunkiness had thrown me. There was only one thing to do. Go back and catch some more to put a weight on them.

Everything was boxed off before noon, sausage rolls scoffed in the car on my way to buy fresh maggots, then leave the barbel rods out of the sling and replace them with a float rod - just in case. Swap the barbel net for a pan net and dig out the keepnet. A keepnet that must be getting on for 35 years old. Flask filled, bunny suit and boots donned and away.

The river looked pretty much as it had on Sunday. level and clarity very similar but the thermometer showed a fall in temperature to 3.8C. There was a wind blowing from somewhere cold in the north. With the gear arranged to my satisfaction in the swim I cast out and awaited action. It was a while coming. Thirty-five minutes and many casts around the swim to be precise. A lovely slack liner that only required me to pick the rod up and wind until I felt a fish on the end.

Upstreaming is a lovely relaxed way to fish. There's no hurry when a bite comes. The fish is hooked (more often than not) and there's plenty of time to put the cup down and attend to the rod. That bite had come after I had decided to leave the rig out for longer seeing as bites weren't coming quickly. The fish that flashed in the margins showed silver and red. A nice roach of twelve ounces. The keepnet was set out and the fish popped in it ready to be joined by its shoalmates.

I'll be fishing matches next!

That was the plan. Two hours later, with cold rain being blown on a wind that had swung to the west but still had some north in it, it looked to have failed. There'd been bites, but not full-blooded ones. Watching a wren dealing with red maggots I threw to it livened up the hiatus.

The hooklink was regularly coming back twisted or tangled round the mainline. I wasn't happy. I was using the same set up as for chubbing last year, but with a maggot feeder in place of the cage feeder and a lighter hooklink with a smaller hook. The hooklink wasn't standing as proud as it should have been for some reason. Even on the previous session I'd not had this problem. How to solve it? It struck me that if I moved the leger stop over the loop in the mainline and pegged it there it might make the shortened loop stiffer. I had nothing to lose so I tried it.

Shortly after the change the second fish of the session hooked itself. It felt bigger and I thought it might be a chub, but again there was silver and red. I took things easy and a fish an ounce over a pound slid into the net. The net could do with being a bit bigger I think. It'll have to do for now, though.

No day can be a bad day when you catch one of these

With the light fading once the church clock chimed four bites came closer together. A third roach, the smallest of the day as it turned out, came a quarter of an hour after the biggest of the day. A poundish chub was next, initially fooling be into thinking I had hooked a roach of the stamp I was hoping to connect with on Sunday. The thick white lips showing in the gloom gave the game away. Darkness, as so often when maggot fishing, saw the bites tail off and me cursing that I had not picked up a loaf on my way to the river.

A cast closer in resulted in an unmistakeable bite and a dace shortly before six. Alas it was a dace sized dace. By now the rain and the wind was making me feel colder than the air temperature should have done. It was getting a bit miserable. My belly was growling too. I set a departure time of six thirty. A couple of finicky knocks on the tip saw the maggot come back with a nipped head. One last cast then take the gear to the car and return to weigh the better fish. I thought the isotopes had moved. I wasn't sure. On winding in to call it a day the maggot was a mere husk. One more last cast? My cold toes said, No.

A funny sort of session. I'd fished for roach on Sunday and caught some nice dace. I return to catch more of the dace and catch roach. Same swim, same rig, same bait. As soon as you think you have something in fishing sussed the fish confound you. I must remember the bread next time, set the float rod up in advance, and try to make an earlier start so I can put a bit more effort in. More angler friendly weather would be a big help. Cold, dry and not quite so windy would be nice. Despite not fishing gas well as I could have done the change to the rig seemed to make a difference, it certainly stopped the tangles. A little more thinking gave me another idea though. Watch this space.

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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.

Ingredients

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.

Dace?

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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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.

Gagged

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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Sunday, November 02, 2008

Chub by design

Chub are a fish I have always struggled to catch intentionally. Decent sized ones at any rate. I have fished for chub I could see and they have always ignored my baits. I have quivertipped and touch legered for them without consistent success. The only way I have managed to catch them has been by fishing water slack enough to allow the use of a light bobbin indicator. However, I did catch my first five pounder after thinking it out. I'd been getting chub bite after chub bite when barbelling one night on the Ribble and I determined to return the following night with my irresistible chub paste and hit every sharp rap I saw. It worked, but it was difficult. Since then I have been threatening to fish for chub 'properly' when the river is low, cold and clear. Today I actually got round to doing it.

The river was indeed low, cool and clear. It was borderline barbel friendly at 5.7C when I set up. A barbel rod was cast out - just in case. Then it was out with the tip rod. This started life as an Interceptor with a spliced in carbon quiver. The solid tip was way too stiff and last winter I removed it and spliced in a glass quiver which is much more like it, and still gives a fairly progressive bend into the rod tip proper.

I still had some maggots left over from Friday's failed roach session, and I had bought a fresh half pint yesterday to use as hookbaits. As soon as I hit the road I realised I had forgotten the loaf I had also picked up for bait. I stopped at the Spar shop and rectified that error, buying a Twix and a Mars bar to sustain me as I hadn't packed any food, only a flask, and was intending to be home early enough to cook something hot.

It was three by the time I got to the river and there was nobody about. The swim I fancied had a new feature since I was last there. A huge branch had been deposited right by the water's edge where you fish from. The banks also had a fresh layer of sandy silt. Each flood changes the river a little, or a lot.

It felt a bit odd to be fishing the river with five pound line, four and a bit pound hook and lead links and a size fourteen hook. Two red maggots and a 1.5oz feeder completed the set up and resulted in a sharp bite on the very first cast. Eat your heart out Stef Horak! The second cast was less successful resulting in a snagged, and lost, feeder. Third cast lucky. A more positive bite materialised but was still missed. It looked like I still couldn't master the quivertip.

After about three quarters of an hour an angler who had been fishing upriver stopped to have a chat. I refilled the feeder and recast. The bait had hardly settled when I struck and felt resistance. Not massive resistance but a fish had definitely been hooked. It was a chub of about two and a half pounds. Success! Two casts later and there was a pluck. I left it. The tip pulled down again and this time there was more resistance and I backwound a turn or two. Once netted the chub looked like it might make four. I nearly didn't bother weighing it though. When I lifted it into the sling I realised how chunky and solid it was.

Result!

I've caught bigger chub, but catching that one by design was more satisfying than any of the others. It was also nice to have to play the fish on suitable tackle and not merely wind it in on barbel gear. Having someone on hand I took the risk of passing him my camera for a couple of snaps. When I slipped the chub back it gave a cough, if fish can cough, and expelled a cloud of red maggots. It had been on the bait all right.

Things went quiet, my spectator headed home for tea, darkness fell, and the rain arrived. Only light showers, thankfully. The night was staying warm, and the river temperature was rising slowly.

Another chub of a couple of pounds or thereabouts came along, followed by an unseaonal eel. I was starting to feel peckish and considered a half-six finish. Then thought better of it as another shower passed over. At twenty to seven I got a dithery bite, struck and connected with something small. In the light of the head torch it looked like a chublet so I swung it to hand where I realised it was a dace. I thought I'd weigh it out of curiosity - not being a good guesser of dace weights. Far from a large fish it didn't quite make half a pound. But as I'd never seen a dace that big before it was still a personal best!

They don't have to be big to be the biggest

Half an hour later my stomach told me it was time for home. A pity because I was enjoying myself and the river had just reached 6C - barbel temperature. Still it had been a successful few hours. I'd caught a new PB, and got the urge to catch more chub by design. I already have an idea to improve my rig...

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