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Friday, January 08, 2010

Slipping and sliding

The shack nasties are starting to kick in as the stillwaters, canals and drains round here are topped off with a layer of that cold solid stuff. I'd venture to the river but I really don't fancy sliding down the hills, or being stuck at in the valley unable to drive out at the end of the session. Not that it's looking too good - looky-linky. While the sun makes the days bearable it isn't high enough for long enough for my liking, and it soon gets really chilly once you are out of the sun.

So I've been amusing myself birdwatching from the comfort of my home. I'm fortunate that there's a field beyond my back fence which, before the snow fell, was a magnet for redwings, fieldfares and starlings. Other birds too. This week I've seen over 20 different species either in the field or the garden, the two 'best' spots being a pair of snipe and a couple of meadow pipits. It's enjoyable, but it's not the same as fishing.

Nonetheless there's a tiny sliver of what's to come each evening as the sun sets further to the west and the daylight hours lengthen. This has prompted me to scan some more slides from the past, slides of summer fishing. Maybe this year I really will get round to doing some serious eel fishing again. These photos are from the year I gave up carp fishing on an expensive syndicate lake and put the worm rods out. 1991 I think it was. I still use the same rods, reels, storm poles (now my barbel sticks) kettle and water bottle. Buy good quality gear and if it ain't broke, and all that!

The first brew of the evening

The first eel I managed to calm down for a self take.

An earlier attempt at eel wrestling!

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

First blood

For a change, and a challenge, I thought it a good idea to fish a different stretch of river. It's often hard to leave the comfort zone when you've had a good session or two but then again you can try to ride your luck elsewhere.

I'd checked the weather forecast on the BBC website and rain was predicted to arrive after dark. I put the brolly in, just in case they were right. As I got out of the car on arriving at the river to meet a customer at five the rain arrived. Just a light shower that soon passed. After doing the dodgy deal I got back in the car and set off to look at another stretch I had yet to fish. Half a mile along the road the rain came back. Heavier and more persistent this time. Knowing that a walk would be involved I carried on to the stretch I'd walked on Sunday. I could fish closer to the car there.

Getting the gear out of the car I realised that I had no PVA bags of pellets tied up, and trying to tie them under a brolly would be almost impossible. I left the rucksack and rods in the rain and jumped in the back of the car with my pellet bucket. I spent fifteen minutes or so making up pellet bags and eating my butties before trotting (more like limping!) off upstream.

The rain eased as I walked past the only other angler on the bank. I dropped my tackle by the first swim I fancied, but I was compelled to have a look at the next swim along. There was definitely something about it. Maybe the flow patterns appealed subconsciously. The gear was moved and carried gingerly down the bank.

The first task was to cast a lead around to get a feel for the swim. Then I droppered out some pellets upstream and about a third of the way across the river. Some more pellets were thrown downstream (I forgot my catty) about a rod length out. An 8mm crab Pellet-O went upstream and an Oyster and Mussel boilie downstream. By six thirty I was settled in with the brolly up - rather pointlessly as it turned out. The high bank at my back made it difficult to get the brolly angled to get any real shelter from the light rain, especially with the upstream wind that was blowing. Still, it wasn't cold and the rain was more of a drizzle.

Even with the rain there were swallows wheeling around and twittering. They will be feeding up ready for their long journey south. There was certainly a good hatch of some sort of flies on the river so they should be well fuelled.

It wasn't long before something showed an interest in the pellet. The rod shook and the line fell slack, but there was nothing attached when I wound down. Then there was a really sharp chub knock on the boilie rod. I thought I might be in with a chance of a fish of some description.

As the light was starting to fade, early with the heavy cloud cover, there was another shake of the pellet rod and this time the line fell slack, and slacker, eventually moving downstream and into the wind. That had to be a hooked fish. Sure enough there was a fish kicking when I got a tight line. Eel. Fortunately lip-hooked and not wrapped up the line it was easily flicked from the hook.

Half an hour later the boilie rod started dancing and a feisty chub of some four pounds was netted. That would do me for a first session on the stretch. I hadn't blanked. I'd fish until ten come what may. I'd seen enough of the stretch to want to return.

At half nine I started to tidy the gear away. I'd put the rods on my short sticks with the alarms attached. While I was sorting the gear out I switched the alarms on. There not being anyone around to disturb should one go off. The rucksack, chair and bucket were carried up the bank and I was stood watching the rods for the final few minutes when the tip of the pellet rod tapped. I was watching it for further movement when the other alarm sounded out a one-toner. The rod was pivoted round on the rest and the butt off the deck!

I grabbed the rod and applied finger pressure to the spool as the fish continued taking line against the baitrunner. I flicked the 'runner off and started to make some impression. Not being too sure what the river bed was like in front of me I leaned into the fish and it came upstream. When it passed me and carried on upstream I was beginning to wonder what it might be. As I stopped its powerful run out to mid-river it rolled over on the surface and soon after was in the net. Nice! I staked the net and scrabbled up the bank for the scales - the sling was in my quiver still by the rods.

A starter for ten

The fish looked a 'nine', but felt heavier. The Avon's needle removed any doubt by spinning round more than 360 degrees. Back in the net for a rest while I sorted the camera out. There was more of that damp stuff falling now, so I threw my towel over the camera while I carried the fish up the bank. A few snaps then back to the water. As soon as the mesh was submerged the barbel was trying to swim away. I dropped the net cord and helped her over it. Away she went, swimming strongly out of the beam of my head torch. I finished packing the rods and net away. I ate a Nutrigrain bar before trudging back to the car damp, but satisfied that a combination of instinct and watercraft had put a fish on the bank.

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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

In the (relative) cool of the night

The heatwave arrived and day time was not for fishing. By the same token long summer evenings are not made to be spent watching telly or surfing the infernalweb, so I threw some barbel gear in the car, picked up a couple of chocolate bars and a bottle of pop from the Spar shop and hit the river. Still low, probably been up and dropped since last week, I had the stretch to myself again. After a red hot day it was a muggy, cloudy evening with a light westerly that died away after dark. I was quickly set up and fishing by nine thirty. It wasn't long before slow pulls started showing on the downstream crab Pellet O rod. I had a horribly slimy premonition. Sure enough when the pulls stopped and I wound the bait in it had been engulfed by an eel about a foot long. A new hooklink was required.

I had gone back to fishing with the PVA stocking bags. Mainly because I didn't have time to thaw out some feeder mix for this last minute session. I also like the way the freebies are closer to the hookbait. But I suppose there are times when fish might hang back from the free offerings, when a feeder could be a better bet. Or you could attach the bags to the lead instead of the hook to achieve a similar result.

While watching the rod tips I heard a disturbance on the far bank and saw a falcon fly up to the tops of the trees where it glided around in a faltering manner. At first I thought it was a kestrel, but I soon realised it was catching insects. The first hobby I have seen in the valley. Travelling light I didn't have my binoculars with me to get a better look.

Twenty minutes after the first eel it's twin came along to the same rod. And they say eels are in decline... The air temperature was 23 when I arrived and it wasn't falling fast. There was no need for my fleece until eleven, and even then it wasn't really essential, not even when the sky cleared a little and a few stars appeared.

Darkness saw a few sharp taps, and more than a few more violent raps as Nora and her mates flitted around over the water in search of the numerous flies. Those bat bites really can rattle the rod and get the adrenaline flowing. At eleven the adrenaline flowed for the right reason as I hooked and swiftly landed an eight pound barbel. The fight was unspectacular apart from a couple of attempted runs. On returning the fish it needed no resting. Low levels and flows, hot weather and high water temperatures keep anglers off the river. Fishing isn't always hectic, but barbel can be caught, and if landed in short time they come to no harm. That's my experience anyway.

At midnight another silvery eel hung itself on the downstream rod. They certainly like the crab flavour pellets. All the while the other, upstream, rod fished a 10mm Tuna Wrap. A couple of twitches were all the action they produced. Hard to imagine the eel's didn't fancy them given their catholic taste. While I have caught on the larger Tuna Wraps they haven't been the best of barbel baits. I don't think I'll be bothering with them again.

By half past one the rod tops had stopped moving so I headed for home, the car's thermometer reading 20. Maybe it's worth putting an overnighter in while the nights are still so short and warm? It would certainly be a pleasant way to spend a night. Or perhaps I ought to try and catch some 'proper' eels somewhere else?

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