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Monday, October 26, 2009

This and that

As I expected, today was dry and windless. I took the opportunity to inspect the amazing exploding umbrella and managed to put it back in to some sort of working order. Two of the plastic fitments that attach the ribs to the central boss have snapped. Other than that it's perfect. For the time being the rib ends can press against the cover - but they'll wear through it eventually if I leave it that way. Coincidentally I got a call this evening from a friend in the manufacturing side of the tackle trade and he reckons there's a new, over-engineered, brolly about to hit the shops. So I'll be putting my blagging hat on soon!

I've added a link to Bob's Blog today. It's updated a few times a month and if you ignore the never ending bitching carried over from a couple of forums it's a good mix of fishing topics and other stuff. His latest post looks at blogging, which (along with a comment on another forum about magazines) set me thinking. Will weekly angling papers survive once everyone is on-line and understands how to use news feeds?

Given the number of angling forums around news travels pretty quick these days, often appearing on the web before it does in print, and frauds get exposed quickly too. There is also a growing angling blogosphere, and I know for certain that print journalists check blogs out - including this one.

Most blogs and forums now supply a feed. So as soon as more anglers realise that the don't have to check out all the angling blogs and forums manually for updates, but can put them into a newsreader where updates appear by magic, with a link to click to go to the complete post, then things will change.

As I use Blogger to compose my blog I subscribe to blog feeds there. I enter my 'dashboard' (as the control area is called) and see the latest updates to all my favourite feeds. If you visit lots of blogs, or other sites with feeds, then get yourself set up to subscribe or follow.

Modern browsers allow you to subscribe to feeds directly. If you use Firefox and see this logo next to the web page's address (as you will for this page) you can click it and see the feed - then set up a subscription in a reader of your choice, including the Firefox browser. Do this for all the blogs you visit and you can check them all out for updates at one time. Updates are automatically loaded but in Firefox all you'll get is the title of the latest post. If you set up an on-line newsreader, like Google Reader, you'll get more than the title, you'll get the first few lines and maybe a photo. The latest post being at the top. And you can set it to show all feeds at once so even less work is involved!

I also reckon that the big firms that sponsor anglers are missing a trick with blogs. A lot have 'blogs' on their websites, but in essence they are just occasional articles that their sponsored anglers send in. Few of them have feeds, so you have to check manually, and they are not updated too frequently - so you don't bother.

As far as I can tell most big firms really haven't grasped what the web is about yet. It's about changing content. The biggest trick that's being missed is to allow the sponsored anglers to blog directly and to do away with the monthly print articles. It'll happen - eventually - and then the print media will struggle.

Where they need to move is into on-line publishing. Their material can be blogged, and they can use forums to attract more visitors. So how will they make their money given that nobody wants to pay for on-line advertising? Simple. They do what Predator Publications/Carp Talk has done and get into selling DVDs and books. In fact get into producing them to sell via the on-line presence. Even put them on-line on a pay per view basis. is having a stab at the latter after starting out as a subscription channel, and I see it's now looking to sell DVDs. So maybe the future has already arrived?

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

All good things

If I had my way the clocks wouldn't go back for the winter they'd go forward another hour. Anyway, I blame the end of British Summer Time for me making a late start for the river. I knew it would be too dark to see the state of the water by the time I got to any stretch, so headed for a length I know well enough to pick a swim on level alone and not have to see the flow patterns as I was expecting the river to be up. It was carrying about three feet. The first cast proved that this was two feet eleven inches of leaves.

My first move had been to walk downstream to check out a swim, then walk back upstream to get a bit of shelter from the wind so I could put my stove on. Having nothing in the cupboards to make sandwiches, and having left it too late to go buy anything, I'd put a pan and a tin of beans in with the stove. Even with six ounce leads on the rigs were dragging round as I polished off the beans. When I'd drunk a cup of flask tea I moved down as I thought the lower swim would be less leaf ridden. It wasn't. If anything it was worse.

Grub up

When I found a spot where one rig would hold I moved the other rod above it. That held too, but it was fishing very close in. A few light spots of rain fell as I tied up some PVA mesh. I moved camp a little to sit below the top of the bank so I could get some shelter from the almost gale force wind that was blowing upstream over my right shoulder. Although the wind was roaring through the trees on the far bank, their tops almost completely bare of leaves now, it was much reduced in force where I was. The rain got heavier so I put my brolly up. The ground now softer than it had been all summer the pole pushed in easily and I pegged out the guy ropes to hold everything in place.

The brolly was obscuring my view of the downstream rod, and the wind noise meant I might not hear the baitrunner. I dug out an alarm and stuffed it under the rod. A few gusts pushed the rights side of the brolly towards me. It was nothing much. I've fished in stronger winds.

As the night was another mild one, the rain was easing and the rigs were now holding station much better even though the rods were arcing over, I began to feel more confident. Then a gust of wind hit from in front. The brolly lifted on the pole then with a loud crack some ribs snapped and it turned inside out. I've been fishing for almost forty years. I have never had a brolly turn inside out like that and I have fished in conditions when I have had to hold on to brollies to stop them taking off, when they have almost wrapped themselves around me. I was not happy.

No comment

Of course as soon as the umbrella exploded the rain eased off. By then I'd had enough. The mortal remains of the brolly were stuffed in my quiver and the rods followed. It had been a short session - less than an hour's fishing time. I don't usually let the conditions beat me. If I'd arrived in daylight I might have found a spot where the leaves could have been avoided for longer. The inverted brolly was just too much for me. I knew that my run of good luck with the barbel would come to an end in ignominious fashion. And it had.

The irony of this umbrella fiasco is that having used the Fibre-lite brolly a few times and being happy with it I had sold my old 50 inch umbrella to an acquaintance who had had his umbrella blow across the river and into a tree last week.

They really don't make umbrellas like they used to. I'll be rummaging out my ancient, and much patched, brolly for next time. It's over fifteen years old now but the frame is still in good nick. The one that preceded it lasted almost ten years if I remember right. I can recall that in the early '90s fishing umbrellas were made in England and the trade catalogues listed spares so they could be repaired - ribs, poles, covers, the works. Not so these days. I've had nowt but trouble with the ones I've bought in recent years. If the covers aren't loose and flappy the locking mechanism fails at crucial moments, the rivets on the 'hinges' fail and now the ribs snap! You'd think someone could make a strong, reliable, not too heavy, fishing umbrella that isn't garish.

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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 05, 2009

Fame at last

Leafing through the Tackle and Guns trade magazine that arrived today I noticed Shimano must have taken me on as a consultant by telepathy!

I don't know where they get the idea these small Baitrunners are good for deadbaiting though.

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Sunday, October 04, 2009

Change of plan...

For whatever reason I couldn't get motivated to risk a drive to the river today. Probably because I really want to fish somewhere else, for something other than barbel. Instead I've been packing rods ready to despatch tomorrow - after I've visited the garage...

My idle hours have been spent rereading my 1979 edition of Jack Hilton's Quest for Carp which, covering the years to 1970 and like Casting at the Sun, recounts earlier days of carp fishing when there were plenty of problems to solve - not least what tackle was best. Carp anglers, all big fish anglers in fact, have it easy these days.

A truly iconic cover photo of Bill Quinlan

Big fish angling was much more of an adventure back in the early days. Not only was it unknown what might lurk in lightly fished, secluded pools, but tackle had to be made to do the job. One can appreciate that catching a handful of what would be considered mediocre fish today was a real achievement, and that the process was as much a part of it as the catching. No twin skinned bivvies for Hilton and co. Just an umbrella, a groundsheet and some polythene sheeting. And can you imagine today's carp anglers suffering in a mail bag instead of a fleece lined duvet sleeping bag? They must have been exciting times. I wonder how many of today's carp anglers will have read Quest for Carp?

By the time I came to big fish angling it had almost all been sorted out. There were numerous glass fibre specialist blanks available and Send Marketing Brollycamps were to be aspired to as were Optonic bite alarms - and out of the price range of an impoverished student. Today tackle is almost ridiculously cheap, and rarely nasty.

The closest I've been to being involved in something like the pioneering days of the post-Walker era was the 'big lure revolution' of the 1990s. Only looking back do I see that now. I wonder if the likes of Hilton realised how much they were changing things at the time they were freelining potatoes?

Checking the webstats for this blog to see where you lot find it I saw that Ted Carter's have started a fishing blog. If you are local to the Preston area or interested in fishing tackle developments it might be worth keeping an eye on.

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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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Friday, August 21, 2009

Retail therapy

I'm having the gable end that faces the prevailing wind repointed. The guy who's doing the work is doing it of an evening. Which has messed up my fishing this week. Wednesday threatened rain, so he called it off - when I had made plans not to fish. Yesterday was fine and he got some work done, but with the nights drawing in I reckon there's still two more days to go. So today I decided to cheer myself up with a trip to Ted Carters. Those Torrixes were looking lonely...

More cardboard for the recycling plant

Yes, I went for the XTEAs. After a bit of internet research I determined that all four sizes differ only in the spool size. The weight difference being negligible it seemed obvious to go for the largest size. If I don't like them for bream fishing I can use them for pike, zander, eel or catfishing (if I get the chance) - or should I lose my marbles all together, carping.

Initial impressions are that they are more solidly built than my older Aero Baitrunners, smoother too. It's hard to tell if they are as robust as the Baitrunner Bs. Time will be the judge of that - or a few barbel sessions using the big leads.

I was hoping to load the reels with Nash Bullet XT in 12lb (the ten pound having served me well for the limited amount of tench fishing I did this spring), but Carter's were out of it. Not to worry I had a spool of 12lb ESP Crystal Carp at home. Why do they have to put that horrible word in the product name? Are carp anglers so dumb they have to use a line that has the fish's name attached? Having worked in a tackle shop I can tell you the answer is often 'Yes'. Irrespective of what it's called I've got on well with the stuff. I used it for breaming earlier in the year and have caught a few barbel, and even a carp, on the stuff. It spools up nicely and is limp. I imagine it would make pretty good hooklinks for barbelling if I was that way inclined, what with it being a 'clear' mono and all.

Well, I didn't have enough of the ESP line to fill all three reels. I did have a bulk spool of fifteen pound Ultima Power, though, which I had bought to put on my spodding reel after having trouble with my braid snapping. This would do to partly fill the spools - they are quite capacious! While loading the line I thought it might be quite nice for fishing with, but a bit thick for my purposes in 15lb. I had to nip out while the cricketers were at lunch so I called in at my local tackle shop to pick up a spool in 12lb. They had none. A shame as it's a grey colour that would have matched the reels nicely. I've gone off Daiwa Sensor so lashed out a few extra quid on 1000m of Ultima Power Carp (that word again...). I've not used a fluorocarbon coated copolymer before, so it will be interesting to see how it performs. It certainly spooled up reasonably enough.

After all this it looks like I'll be having a stillwater session soon so I can sit looking at my new set up. Where, and when, will depend on how soon the gable end is finished. I bought a tub of lobworms as I had some cash spare after paying for the reels, so there might be an overnighter for eels in the offing.