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Friday, October 16, 2009


It never cease to amaze me how easy it is to upset people on the internet. Delicate flowers get in a tizzy now and then over what I consider to be throwaway lines. Nowt so queer as folk! Spilt milk and all that. So if you ever take offence at something I say here or elsewhere I'll let Joe E. Brown's closing words make my excuses...

If you don't know the film click here

With work going almost exactly to plan I went fishing, even though I didn't make my escape until it was nearly dark. Seeing three vehicles in the car park I expected the bend to be packed out so I'd have an ideal opportunity to give that swim I keep meaning to try a bash as it's always been free. As I approached it I saw the dim green glow of two isotopes and a red head torch in the swim. Blooming typical!

The day had been warm and with the cloud cover it was staying that way. No fleece was required under the bunny suit and no woolly hat. For some reason I can't stand wearing a baseball cap after dark, it seems to restrict my vision, so my thinning hair was exposed to the night. As it turned out the swim I fished last time out was free, but had been fished during the day. It wasn't where I wanted to fish but I was still confident as conditions were perfect - which was why I'd set out in the gloaming.

Carrying as small pellet bucket a long way can cut into your hand if it has a thin wire handle. Larger buckets usually come fitted with grips, but the smaller ones do not. If yours doesn't then the answer is simple. Pop one end of the wire out (you might need a lever of some sort), slide a length of hosepipe over it, then pop the wire back in.

Deluxe bucket modification

Just after I'd set up there were some peculiar warbling, throaty trilling noises from the wood, which then progressed behind me and upstream fading away into the distance. Definitely a bird of some sort, but what I have not a clue. Most peculiar.

The first bite was a long time coming. I'd just wound in the upstream boilie rod to find a foulhooked eel attached (how long it had been there is anyone's guess) when the pellet rod was away. The fish felt ponderous. It got slightly upstream of me, and at the point I reached to slacken the drag a notch it fell off. Checking the hook point I found it was turned over ever so slightly. A touch with the file and out went a fresh pellet followed by a new boilie. Twenty minutes later the boilie was away and a seven pounder landed. The lost fish had felt a bit bigger. There was bound to be more action to come.

The sky stayed cloudy, the wind minimal, the air toasty. It was ideal but the barbel thought otherwise. After those two bites in short order it went quiet again. A small chub took a pellet, another eel hooked itself behind its head and failed to make its presence known. I was glad I'd left the luncheon meat behind or the eels would certainly have been on it. Around eleven a light mist rose up across the fields and the air began to cool slightly. By midnight I was on my way to the car. Baffled, but not despondent. Text book conditions don't always provide textbook results.

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Modern times

After doing some work in the morning I couldn't make my mind up what to do next. Having wasted too much time in deliberation I decided to go barbel fishing (just once more!) and chance a long walk to Buzzard Bend. I'd been listening Farming Today in the morning and the terrible issue of noise pollution in the countryside. People, who claimed to be country folk, were complaining about shooting, bird scarers, church bells and big tractors. It made me wonder what they expect from the world. These sounds are all part of the ambience of the countryside for me. Just like blanking makes catching more pleasureable they make the silence that follows them all the more intense.

Walking upstream the first field that had been lush grass and clover last week, was shorn and yellow. The second was still being worked, the rural idyll hideously shattered by two enormous tractors collecting silage making the most of the continuing Indian Summer. There should be a law against it...

The bend is deep, snaggy, and an easy cast. I leaded around then spodded out some two pints of pellets and the contents of a tin of hemp. Fear not, I hadn't bought the tinned seed. It had been acquired in exchange for some leads and pellets. With the appetisers laid I cast out the main course. A 15mm boilie on one rod and a 10mm boilie on the other, both with their attendant bags of pellets. The ritual bag filling then commenced.

Since seeing the Korum PVA mesh sold in watertight pots I have been keeping mine in a screw top container. The one shown below will hold 20m of mesh, and being clear I can see how much I have left. I leave half an inch of the mesh hanging out when I put the lid on so I can find the end easily.

PVA container

It was quarter to five by the time the baits were out, the sun still shining warm and bright. A kingfisher was having success on the far bank. There are plenty of small fish in the margins at the moment. The silage was gathered in and a natural 'silence' descended once more on the valley. A buzzard mewed, a blackbird chattered its alarm call and flew across the river to disappear into the thick canopy of the wooded bank opposite. The leaves are now showing definite signs of autumn. The air was still, I watched a leaf detach from a branch and flutter slowly to the water's surface and drift equally slowly downstream. Fish were rising noisily.

A lazy, hazy day

The river was low and clear, with it's usually light peaty stain. I was expecting kick-off time to be around eight. I wound the baits in and went for a wander up river. There was a tempting looking run with far bank snags. Not tempting enough for me to move after putting the bait in on the bend. Back in my chosen swim I dropped my rig in the margin to see how obtrusive the braided hooklink was - and took an underwater photo. The hook looks more obvious than the braid to me.

What the fishes see

The baits were recast, but I swapped the big bait rig over to clear nylon. An experiment to see if it would bring me a bite in daylight when the 'highly visible' braid might not. I sat down and swigged from my bottle of pop. Hearing a rustling in the balsam I turned round to be greeted by a fellow angler who enquired how this swim fished as he hadn't tried it. I replied that I hadn't got a clue. "This is the first time I've..." ZZZZzzzzzzz. The small boilie had been swapped for an 8mm crab pellet and a barbel had approved of the change.

Barbel fight differently in deeper water than they do in the shallows. In the shallows they use their power to cover distance at speed, in deeper water they use it to bulldog. This one was bulldogging like a good un. With the river being clear it had glistening brassy flanks. It also looked like it had swum into a big rock as a small fry. A chunky fish even so.

Son of parrot

So much for the braid putting the barbel off. Half an hour later the big boilie was taken. One all to the two rigs in daylight. There was some light cloud overhead, the evening was staying warm. A couple of days earlier I was wrapped up in fleece long before dark. This time I was in my t-shirt until eight.

Sunset in the valley

By the time the next bite came, again to the pellet, I was fleeced-up but by no means cold. The fingerless mittens were still in the rucksack and dew wasn't forming heavily. This third fish gave an unusual bite. A short zuzz on the baitrunner followed by a tapping rod tip. The initial impression when I leaned into it was of a chub. Until it started to take line. At a couple of ounces over nine pounds it was the best, and last, barbel of the session.

As the evening wore on it felt more and more like nothing else would happen. It didn't. I have a hunch that if I had put more bait in from the off, or topped it up as the session progressed, I might have caught a few more. There's no way to prove it though. I packed up at half past eleven and began the fifteen minute trudge back to the car. As I was loading the gear in the car I saw a bright green cricket on the window of the rear door. Prehistoric looking, and larger than I had imagined crickets to be.

I have two choices of route home. The short one through town and suburbs, the long one along motorway and through the flatlands. I opted for the motorway. This was a bad move with a capital 'B'. Before I had reached the end of the slip road I ground to a halt in what was obviously a lengthy tailback. It's less than two miles to the next junction. It took me an hour to get there and turn off - the tailback went on for as far as I could see. The cause was 'workforce in carriageway', four lanes being reduced to one.

Every light in town was on red, reminding me why I take the motorway. At one set I noticed movement at the bottom left of the windscreen. The cricket. It must have crawled along the side of the car. As my journey home continued the cricket carried on creeping. By the time it was in front of me I'd got quite fond of it and didn't want to drive too fast in case it got swept away by the airflow. I entered a 50 zone and it turned head on to become more streamlined. As I hit the dual carriage way I saw it brace its legs. If it had knuckles I'm sure they would have been white. Turning in to the village it started to crawl on to a windscreen wiper. By the time I parked up it had descended the other side. I thought it had an air of relief about it!

The fastest cricket in the west

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Monday, June 15, 2009

In-line maggot feeders

Over the last two tench seasons I have been doing well with in-line maggot feeder rigs. I can't say for sure that they are any better than heli-feeder rigs, both have caught me plenty, but they do work well. Nowadays there are commercially available models, but the new Drennan ones only start at 56g but I have been quite happy with smaller, lighter feeders. For one thing 30g is quite enough to hook fish using short hooklinks and a tightened baitrunner, and for another I don't always like putting too many maggots out around my hookbait. Extra weight can come in handy for casting into a headwind or when adding a PVA bag to the rig. For this reason I have knocked up some 50g feeders. While I was doing so I took some photos to illustrate the process.

I start out with a large Preston Innovations Quick Load Feeder of the desired weight. The tools required are simple .

Tools and materials

The only materials required are some soft plastic tube - that from a camera bulb release is a perfect fit for a size 10 Power Swivel - and an optional tail rubber. The first job is to cut off the swivel, remove the cap and flick out the remains of the swivel attachment. Then bore a hole in the bottom of the feeder and another in the cap.


The key to a glueless assembly is to make sure the hole you make in the bottom of the feeder is just large enough to accept the plastic tube. Bore it slowly and carefully. I start out using the point of my penknife, follow up with the augur, and finish off with the reamer. When the tube won't quite fit, stop. By twisting the tube slightly you can 'screw' it through the hole and when you pull it straight the tube expands from a partially twisted state and locks in place. A smear of superglue around the join does no harm.

Use the curve the tube has taken on while coiled up to your advantage. Get the alignment right and it will angle both the mainline and the hooklink downwards which should improve presentation and help pin the line down above the feeder.

The hole in the cap should be a loose fit to allow the cap to slide easily along the tube. Slide on the cap and trim the tube to a length that suits you and allows easy filling of the feeder. The tail rubber on the end of the tube prevents the cap sliding up the line when you are filling the feeder. Again a smear of superglue around the tail rubber can be advantageous.

Before and after

That's about it. All you need now are to add some maggots... and some tench!

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Monday, June 01, 2009

Gotta get outta this place

Last week, being a short one following the Bank Holiday, saw me unable to get away tenching. Infuriating as the weather was warm and settled. The red eyed blighters must have woken up. The Saturday after my trip south for the bream I'd bought a pint and a half of red maggots which were residing in the fridge - on the off chance that I could have sneaked away. Last Saturday I bought another pint on the same premise. Sunday morning and I cracked. I had this week planned out, but I could stand no more thumb twiddling resulting from a lack of blanks to build on (Harrison's are short-staffed so are playing catch-up). The gear found itself getting readied.

I was expecting the first few hours of daylight to be the key time, so there was no rush to get set up well before dark. With dusk coming around ten, now summer is all but here, I had no need for a large food bag and set off after tea. Driving through the verdant late spring landscape in the early evening light, sillaging under way, the hawthorn blossom faded elder flowers taking its place, anticipation was high.

Just as the roads had been quiet so the lake was deserted. I had my pick of swims so headed to the south west corner which the warm north easterly was blowing in to. I took my time plumbing, then baited up two spots with some hemp cooked that very afternoon, laced with a light mix of pellets and old maggots. for the night I placed an in-line maggot feeder on the close in patch which had been baited by catapult, a method feeder with two grains of fake corn on the more distant patch and a 10mm Tutti with a bag of Hemp and Hali Crush to an unbaited clear patch.

Darkness was slow arriving as I lay back scanning the water from under my Aqua Rover Brolly - just big enough to cover the bedchair and fine for a warm dry night. The wind had dropped, but not died away so the brolly was welcome. Around eleven I was surprised to see tench rolling over my bait and in the general area. This went on for at least an hour, but the alarms didn't sound. Nor did they disturb my slumber.

I woke at three thirty to the sound of a coot chasing away a pair of grebes. There was a red glow low on the horizon and it was starting to slowly come light. A few birds were singing and as the day grew brighter as I drank the first brew of the morning so more joined in the chorus greeting the dawn. A tench rolled. I rebaited all the rods, the boilie on the helicopter rig being swapped over to a couple of plastic casters and the lead to a feeder. More tench rolled and tail-slapped. It was fully light. Having seen tench moving closer in than my closest baited spot I wound in the helicopter rig and added a small PVA bag with a few maggots in to mask the hook and beat the weed. A new trick for me, but one other tenchists have been using for a while.

PVA bag adds buoyancy and keeps the hook point clear of weed while providing added attraction

The bobbin on the helicopter rod lifted to a tight line, then dropped back as I got to the rod expecting the spool to commence spinning. As I was about to settle back on the bedchair it rose again. This time it stayed up and the rod top twitched. I lifted the rod and felt a fish on the end. Initially the fish came easily until it hit the margin when it woke up big time. I was convinced it would be a male, but it wasn't. It was a well filled out female.

Fit to burst

Had the bag done the trick? I wound in the in-line feeder and added a bag to that before recasting both rods. Two hours later, with the water sparkling in the sunlight, that rod was away. Another well filled out fish was soon landed. By now the rolling had abated. Three hours later I was on my way home after breaking this year's tench duck following another instance of that mysterious inspiration to fish an unplanned session.

April I could (just about!) live with being tench free, May shouldn't have been - but I suppose I didn't get the chance to put enough time in to find the fish (I blame the Bank Holidays - and bream!). Here's hoping I can make the most of June before the spawning urge overcomes the tench.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Planning ahead

The tenching has been more like sitting in the open air staring at rods than fishing so far this year. Either I haven't been able to find them or they just haven't woken up and started exploring yet. The bream, on the other hand, had been going wild down south. I couldn't string the time together to go after them though. It can be a short period of easy fishing and I'd missed out on it last year. Tuesday saw me able to get away. Unsure of the range I'd need to fish at I packed my Interceptors and one of my Ballistas. My plan being that if I needed two long range rods I'd press the marker rod into operation - so I put a spare Baitrunner in the bag. For some reason I threw another spod in the bait bag, to give me a choice of four. It must have been premonition.

The first task was to walk round the lake looking, and asking, for clues. One thing I will say about carp anglers is that when they know you're one of those weirdos who prefers catching bream or tench they are very helpful. A spot where the bream had rolled the previous evening was pointed out to me. It would be a starting point if nothing else, so I wheeled my wheelbarrow round and selected a swim that gave access to open water. Out with the plumbing rod and hard gravel was located almost at the casting limit of my Interceptors - determined by casting a feeder at the marker float. This process revealed that one of the Sporteras was making a grinding noise and felt as rough as a bag of gravel. I put my spare Baitrunner on that rod and swapped the other Baitrunner from the Ballista to the other Interceptor. I prefer to fish with matching reels so that I know where all the knobs and levers are and that they all work in the same way. Essential in the dark, I find.

Tools of the baiting trade

The next task was the spodding of feed. A presoaked mix of pigeon conditioner and groats to which I added a load of mixed pellets. To save my back I stood the spod mix bucket on two other bait buckets. This also speeded the spodding up. Well, it did until the first spod fell apart. I had wondered why the bead was a tight fit under the loop on the MCF spod when it hadn't been on the previous cast. Everything looked okay. Then I cast again and the fins fell off. I had assumed the fins to be an integral part of the moulding, but they are not. They are a separate piece that is glued to the spod body. As the wire loop is attached to the fins and takes the force of the cast inertia did the rest. No matter, I had three more spods.

Spod the difference

I clipped on a bigger spod that I'd modified to release like the MCF, filled it up and let rip. There was a resounding crack as the line parted and the spod flew free. The line had tangled at the reel. Arse! Time was getting on and I had two options. Swap my marker reel to the spod rod (it was clipped up at the correct distance and I had my horizon marks picked out to aim for) or take the float off and use the marker rod. Out with a second MCF spod (because it was smaller) and try the marker rod. It did the job easily, and was less tiring to use than the heavy spod rod. I was soon working to a rhythm and the bait was placed accurately. I think I'll try a lighter rod for spodding again.

With half the spod mix out on the lake bed I set to sorting out my method mix. This consisted of Vitalin, more of the mixed pellets and some Sonu fishmeal and pellet method groundbait. The thinking being that bream like pellets and fishmeal! One rod fished two grains of floating fake corn set about half an inch off bottom and the other rig had a 10mm Tutti Frutti boilie on the hair. With both rods out I set up camp and waited. As if a switch had been thrown bream began rolling at eight o'clock. First of all well out from the baited patch, then closer and all points between the bait and the middle of the lake. Confidence was sky high.

When tench fishing with 'bolt' rigs I set the baitrunners and the line tight. The only way the bobbin can go is down and the tight drag helps set the hook and stop it falling out. When I'm fishing for bream I've started fishing the bobbins almost as low as the chains will allow but with just a bit more of a drop possible. The baitrunners are slackened off so if a bream does move away it can take line and give an indication. One or two have actually given decent runs. Too often I've failed to spot a bream take using the tight set up. All that happens is a single bleep and that's it. Either the fish stays where it is or it kites round on the tight line. Ignore the bleep and you end up winding a bream in when you wake up!

The down side to the slacker approach is that you are more aware of line bites, some of which can fool you into thinking they are the real thing. I always give an indication plenty of time before lifting into it. Letting the bobbin go up and stay up, watching the line tighten and the rod tip move, waiting while the bobbin goes up and down for ages, or watching it drop right back. Even so they still manage to fool me now and then. Line bites can occur on a tight line too, and if they result in a slack liner you have to get up and reset the bobbin. I think fishing the bobbin's on a bit of a drop is the best, and most informative option.

Loaded for bream

Once it was dark everything fell into place. Suffice to say that the bream found the feed and my hookbaits, the bobbins jiggled, alarms sounded and the tripod was required! One fish came out in daylight, and after I'd returned it and was sorting the landing net out I found a tiny pikelet. The tiniest pikelet I think I have ever seen.

From acorns...

To give a sense of scale!

The second night followed a similar pattern to the first. Bait was spodded out in readiness for the dark hours and right on cue at eight the bream began rolling. Again it wasn't until the light had gone that the bobbins moved and the scales and camera were required. Despite the problems that beset the start of the session a little forethought in packing extra spods and reels and some improvisation on the rod front had rescued the situation and I'd done okay. As I packed away my bream camp in the morning sunshine it was apparent that my bunny suit and towel would need a good wash!

Many years ago I scoffed at people wanting to fish for bream. It wasn't until I caught my first double that I realised big bream are different to small or medium bream. They're not groundbait devouring slime-balls, they are impressive and majestic beasts.

A male bream rests before release

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Review - Sensas Easy Loop

Some time ago I mentioned a new toy. It was a Sensas Easy Loop. Two of them actually as there are two sizes in a pack. They look a bit like a cross between a small green, deformed, hockey-stick and a crochet hook. How they ever came to be designed I don't know, they are fiendishly clever.

Sensas Easy Loop

The smaller size makes loops that are good on the end of a hair rig and the larger one loops that go well on the end of a hooklink. The instructions are not too easy to follow and there is a bit of a knack to using the tool. But once you have the knack you can tie loops faster than you can by hand - small, neat, 'same size every time' loops. When you get the length of spare line that is required correct you can tie up quite short hooklinks.

I tested a loop tied with two twists in some 10lb braid against the hand-tied figure eight loop I have been using for some time on my hooklinks. I ran the test three times in fresh lengths of braid and the Easy Loop knot survived every time. I was so impressed I bought myself another pair to keep in my stillwater box.

The video below isn't intended to show how to use the Easy Loop, but to demonstrate how it lives up to its name.

Although I used orange Dacron for the video the Easy Loop works well with Spectra braids and, possibly even better, with nylon mono.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Featured Product - Eze Lap Diamond Hook File

I might as well make use of this blog for a bit of blatant promotion for my business, so I'm going to occasionally feature items that I find really useful. A good hook hone is something I learned the value of when I was doing a lot of lure fishing. It's invaluable when fishing rocky rivers for barbel and chub too. That's why all my tackle boxes contain an Eze Lap Diamond Hook File. They are ideal for single hooks larger than a size 12 (below that I just tie on a new one when the point has gone or turned over) and also for trebles below a 2.

Despite what people might tell you chemically sharpened points can be touched up with a file. The trick is knowing how to do it. Don't go mad. Light strokes going towards the point, working your way around the circumference of the point are what is required. I use the groove of the Eze Lap to start with, then the flat side to finish the job off. The groove is also useful for straightening a point that has turned over.

I described the hook sharpening process for lure trebles in an article on and it applies just the same for singles and with a diamond file. I'll repeat the important stuff here.

Treat a hook point as having six faces when viewed from the front of the point and you are getting the picture. File each face to get a really sharp point. One that is 'sticky sharp' and will catch as soon as it touches something. I test hook points on the ball of my thumb. Others use a thumbnail. Take your pick.

Always file towards the point of the hook. Never use a back-and-forth motion. File the sides of the point first (A &B), then the outside faces (C & D), and finally the faces on the inside of the hook where the barb is (E & F).

With curved points the inside is impossible to sharpen. So don't bother. Unless the point has been turned in it won't make any difference as sharpening the other 'faces' will suffice.

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Line loading

Yesterday I noticed that I had a lot of line twist on my feeder reel, so today's job was to load fresh line. The first task was to remove the twisted nylon. I bought a battery operated Berkley line stripper many years ago, and this has proved an invaluable tool stripping 100yds of line in no time at all - and without any effort.

With the old line removed the next task is to load the fresh line. To hold the spool I use another Berkley product, a Dog Bone Spooler. And odd name, but the photo below might explain how it came about. This is a spring-loaded spool holder that you grip between your ankles as you wind the line onto the reel.

Dog Bone Spooler and bulk spool of line

Ordinarily this is used with the reel on a rod butt. As you can see in the next photo I have modified a rod butt to make this easier. The length of handle has been shortened to a minimum and a single leg ring taped on in a position that puts it directly above my feet when sat winding the reel.

Berkley line stripper, and modified rod butt

The set up in use

The second reel seat is there to take another reel when swapping line from one reel to another, for example when reversing braid to extend it's working life - either by swapping it between spools or onto a different reel. When using the butt section with a multiplier the ring is taped to its very end so the line doesn't touch the blank. One day I might get round to whipping two rings permanently in place - or maybe fitting roller guides.

This butt section makes life a lot easier and a couple of people who have seen it have asked me to make them one. I made a better looking job on those than my own developmental prototype.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Review - Tica Sportera 3507SR (and other ramblings)

I would have been out fishing today if my plans hadn't been scuppered by flu ridden delivery drivers. I had it all planned, rods out for Christmas Wednesday and Thursday, fish Friday. Wednesday went well and the courier arrived early. If that was repeated on Thursday I might even manage to snatch a few hours on the river before and after dark. By five thirty yesterday I was still waiting. Then I got a phone call to say the driver would be late - as if he wasn't already. Ten minutes later another call to confess that there was no driver, they were short-staffed owing to 'flu' and they couldn't collect until Friday. So here I am, twiddling my thumbs and waiting. So I thought I'd fill my time rambling on here.

Back in August I wrote a review of the Okuma Epix Pro EPB30 Baitfeeder on this blog. It's a nice little reel that has it's body and spool in proportion - something I like in a reel. I mostly use the Okumas for perch fishing, where the freespool option comes in handy when there are daft carp about. For barbel fishing I also find that feature useful, especially when using two rods, but for that I use Shimano Baitrunner 3500Bs which I have reviewed on Barbel Now. While I have used the Okumas for feeder fishing for chub and roach I find they are a little slow on the retrieve. Not much of a problem on a river or when fishing at close range (as most of my perch fishing is) but on a long chuck it seems to take ages to get the feeder back for a refill.

Spools L-R: Shimano 4000, Tica 3507, Okuma 30

For a long time my tench fishing had been done with Shimano Aero Baitrunners of some description. The size had always been the same even though the model numbers had changed over the years. Originally they were 4000s, latterly 8000s. All take the same spools. A 4000, for example, takes the 4500 spools - the only difference being their capacity and the width at the spool lip. The smaller Aeros, however, are really the same reels with noticeably smaller spools. I have never seen any advantage in this. If I want a smaller capacity reel it's to use with lighter lines and lighter rods - so I want a reel that is smaller too. Anyway, the 4000/8000 Aeros are ideal for use with mono lines of 12lb and upwards to maybe 18lb. They are a popular size for carp and pike fishing. Personally I don't think they are robust enough for piking (maybe the more recent and more expensive models are) and prefer other reels, but that's for another blog.

In 2007 I decided that I wanted a slightly smaller freespool reel for my tenching and bought myself three Daiwa Regals. After just a short period of use I realised they were a bit flimsy for me. The bale arms bent for one thing, and one had started to sound a bit rough after I'd used it for a session on a river. I persevered with them until the end of the tench season, having had no trouble with them, and managed to palm them off on someone during the winter. In April this year I replaced them with three Tica Sportera 3507s. Initially I was unsure of how these relatively cheap reels would perform, but after landing a lot of tench on them, and playing a big carp on one for a long time before I lost it, I have grown to like them a lot.

Top: Shimano 8000RE Bottom L: Okuma Epix Pro 30. Bottom R: Tica Sportera 3507SR

They are not much larger than the Epix Pro 30, but considerably smaller than the 8000 Shimano - and therefore than the 5000 Shimano that has a similar sized spool. For close to medium range casting with lines up to 10lb they are spot on and balance nicely on an Interceptor or similar rod with a test curve of 2lb or less. The drag is surprisingly good, the bale arms don't bend, and after a fair bit of use they still feel smooth and satisfyingly 'solid'. Maybe not quite as smooth as the Epix Pros, but on a par with the Shimanos.

The line lay may not be as nice as on some reels, but I can't honestly say it has hindered my casting. They are not reels for distance fishing anyway. Even on the longest chuck I find they whip rigs back in quickly enough. If I ever get round to doing that roach fishing I keep threatening to do their spare spools will be getting loaded up with five pound mono. In the meantime it's 10lb. Should I need to cast further for tench or bream then it will be out with the heavier rods and on with the Aeros. Horses for courses.

Why the Tica range of reels isn't more widely stocked I can't say. All their reels I have seen in the upper price brackets (which is still a lower bracket than the top ranges of other manufacturers) have looked and felt as well constructed as the Sporteras. That's a Tica I bought for my chub fishing last month, for example. Bigger sizes of the Sportera are also available and even if you are not on a tight budget they are worth a look.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Still dull

After working too hard (by my low standards) and waiting in for parcels and couriers, I finally cracked and dropped everything to head for a low and clear river with a couple of pints of maggots and a tip rod. Although I thought the river was at NSL last time I fished a week of dry weather showed I had been mistaken by about a foot.

What a waste of time the maggots were! I got bites okay, but the one fish I hooked was a minnow. When it came to dusk the bites dried up. At least I could see my newly painted rod rest heads in the low light!

That's more like it!

Luckily I had taken my barbel gear too. When I say luckily, no luck was involved whatsoever! I have almost as little patience with quiver tipping as I do with float fishing. Although I plan on doing some serious tip fishing this winter if conditions are favourable. I've told myself that before though...

Just before it got properly dark a barbel of about a pound and a half hung itself on a single 8mm pellet. Then when it was properly dark I wound the other rod in to find I'd been slimed. An eel of about a pound, yet again hooked in the back. As I was stripping snot off my line I heard the other reel zip into life as another barbel made off with the pellet snake I had swapped over to. This fish fell off, but the bait was taken almost straight away on the recast by a barbel about twice the size of the first one.

Quarter to nine and the same rod, after a chub bite that didn't stop (suggesting a hooked chub), produced the smallest barbel of the season so far - maybe one whole pound. This was a bit grim. I chucked the snake further across the river. After five minutes it was away resulting in a leviathan that was easily six pounds!

After losing an end rig I stuck two 15mm Tuna Wraps on the upstream rod, for no other reason than the only spare rig I had made up had a big hook and a long hair. After a long wait the rod tip started dancing. I picked the rod up and there was a fish on, probably a chub as it wasn't going anywhere. Then it felt the pull of the rod and headed downstream at a considerable rate of knots. A brief but spirited fight ensued and I had something worth weighing in the net. As I was wringing the water from the sling the downstream rod took off. This was another schoolie, unhooked in the water like all the others. The one I weighed was a nice solid fish. Too short to go doubles, but one that made the night worthwhile. Half an hour later another little one came along to a single 8mm crab pellet.

Sometime back I posted a picture of the landing net attachment of a zinger for my forceps. Not long after that post it exploded into its constituent parts and, Humpty Dumptylike, refused to be put back together again! The next attempt was a coiled plastic 'spring' which worked well, but stretched - rather defeating the object of the exercise. I might just as well have used string after a few weeks. The MkIII version is made of hollow pole elastic - which is amazingly streeeeetchy! Early days, but having the forceps on the net does save a lot of messing about. The rubber band retainer needs some refinement!

MkIII forceps attachment

The day had been cloudless and warm. Even with a starry sky it stayed quite mild, and when the cloud cover came in after eleven it warmed up. I wound the rods in at half eleven and spent a while in another swim with one of them. All that resulted were a few fast chub bites.

It's good fun catching a few when you haven't been out for a while, but I really must try to get a session in somewhere that's more of a challenge.

Oh well, the PAC Convention looms on Saturday. Up early, long drive there, set up my stall, spend all day on my feet talking fishing, pack up, long drive home. If you are attending the Convention come and say hello.

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Friday, August 29, 2008

Better than watching telly

I've had a couple of e-mails asking about self-take photographs with fish this week. The ones you see on this blog are the best of the ones I take. Some turn out pretty ropey, even with practice, but most work out quite well.

The equipment I use is simple, and idiot proof. Which is just as well! The camera is a Canon S3-IS which has a flip round screen. I have used a camera without a flip round screen, but it is a bit of a bind having to take a test shot (sans fish), walk round the back of the tripod, review the picture, make adjustments, repeat the test shot and so on. With the screen flipped each shot is previewed automatically, so all you have to do is either move your position or the tripod to get the shot framed. I wouldn't consider a camera without a flip round screen these days.

Canon S3-IS

Self timers are okay, but they focus when you set them going. Unless you put something in the same place as you and the fish will be when taking the picture this means the camera focuses on the background. Not too good in a lot of situations. A bulb release and adaptor is what is required.

Camera, adaptor bracket and bulb release

The one shown came from Jessop's, but I don't think they supply them any longer. There is an alternative which seems better made that I bought when the Jessop's one broke. But after mending the bracket by fixing the release mechanism to it all has been well. At least I have a spare!


You can find more about these items, and links to suppliers, on Barbel Now. There is a good article on self take photography on the PAC website. I have found it best to place the bulb under the heel of my foot, rather than trying to use a knee or toes to press it. More weight is transfered more easily, and I don't seem to gurn quite so much. I still usually manage to look gormless. But that's situation normal for me...

I called in at my local tackle shop to top up my stock of crab Pellet-Os yesterday afternoon (using five at a time gets through the handy little tubs quite quickly when you're catching). My mate who works there asked if I was fishing again that evening and I said I didn't think I was. He reckoned he would if he'd had a good catch. After I'd finished my chicken and chips and washed the pots I threw the gear in the car and was on my way. Well, fishing beats watching the TV and surfing the bloomin' internet!

I wasn't keen on fishing the same peg two days running, but I didn't have much option. Within five minutes of casting out I pulled out of a fish. Then it went quiet. As the light faded I landed a barbel of some three pounds on the upstream rod, fishing a five pellet snake. Five minutes later the same rod was away again and I weighed the next fish - two ounces short of nine pounds.

Ten minutes later I was winding in the downstream rod for a recast when the upstreamer started nodding and the baitrunner whirred. It seems like the barbel will give a 'proper' bite if you don't react instantly. However, by the time I picked up the rod everything felt solid. I put the rod back in the rests, the rod tip nodding occasionally, while I rebaited and recast the downstream rod. Returning to the snagged fish I pointed the rod down the line and pulled. The paper clip did its job and released the lead. The fish was another smallish one of five or so pounds - unhooked in the water and slipped straight back like all the little ones.

Two more fish came to the 'snake', and one to the downstream Tuff 1 during the following hour and a half. A couple more also snagged me on the strike. I snagged a few times without getting a bite too. I need to mould up more leads before I run out!

The night was warm again, no fleece required, but it turned damp. Hardly drizzle, more a fine misty-mizzle that hardly warranted erecting the brolly but I put it up anyway. Things seemed to have gone quite when at ten forty the 'snake' rod finally acted like it should when a barbel makes off with the bait. This felt much better, and a bit of a plod upstream gave the game away.

A final self-take tip - don't wear a black sweatshirt for night time photos!

I've been away from the Ribble since I was fishing it three nights a week during the '05-'06 season, catching my last double from it on the foggy Christmas Eve of 2005. It's good to be back. An hour after returning the fish I was on my way home. With a few fish under my belt I think I can face a blank or two after something bigger elsewhere!

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Trouble comes in twos

With one car in the car park the angler just had to be in the swim I fancied, and he was. Not to worry, he said he'd had a good day and two other anglers had caught a few as well. I headed for my second choice swim. Two baits were out and the first cup of flask-tea half drunk by twenty to eight when the downstream rod signalled a bite. I placed my cup down carefully and landed a lovely small, about 2lb, blank-saving, barbel. When I went to rebait I saw my cup had fallen over. Typical...

About half an hour later the other rod indicated a bite. The usual slamming takes have been notable by their absence lately. The fish are hooking themselves, but only tap-tapping the rod top. I'm not sure why. Anyway, this second fish was a bit bigger, in the six pound bracket and a dark golden colour. It had fallen for a five crab Pellet-O 'snake'.

8mm pellets and a #8 C-4

These long 'snakes' look like they won't be good hookers, but so far they have been okay. I think the fish suck them in like a piece of spaghetti, which is why I use a hook that is about the same gape as the pellets' diameter - to slide in easily after the pellets.

By nine it was dark enough to watch the glowing isotopes on the rod tips, and at ten past the upstream, snake, rod tapped again. I leant forward to the rod and pulled into the fish, but before I could stand up to play it across the river I heard the other Baitrunner screeching as that rod bucked in the rests. It had to happen one day! I netted the first fish, which felt half decent, as quickly as I could, standing on the net pole to prevent the fish swimming off with the net and grabbed the downstream rod. The line was slack but I soon made contact with another weighty fish that soon joined its pal in the landing net.

Next time I have seventeen pounds of barbel in my net I hope there's just the one fish!

Although this was the first time I'd had two barbel on at once I have experienced quite a few instances, with chub too, of baits ten or twenty yards apart being picked up within seconds of each other. If the baits were feet apart I could understand it. Either one fish or a shoal moving through the swim. But spread out baits being taken at the same time is a bit more difficult to explain.

The night carried on in a similar vein with fish falling to both rods at regular intervals until elevenish when things started to go wrong. I managed to find a snag, losing a couple of rigs, then had a couple of bites that turned into snagged rigs. Neither bite seemed to result in a hooked fish, and I got both rigs back - albeit one with a straightened hook - so maybe chub were the culprits.

As soon as I stopped casting near the snag the problems went away and two more fish were landed. One of them coming as soon as the bait had settled. The rod tip bounced before the lead gripped the river bed. There was a pause. Then the tip started bouncing again! The final barbel came just before midnight. Reaching for a made up mesh bag of mixed and crushed pellets I found there were none left, so I cast out the hookbait and started to pack up.

I have a feeling that, like the barbel, I had moved in on bait put in the swim during the day. You won't hear me complaining though! I headed home warm and happy having caught ten barbel in just over four and a half hours and having thoroughly enjoyed myself.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Accentuate the positive

After yesterday's session I feel like the England cricket team trying to find hope for the future at the end of another series defeat. What started badly got worse - with a glimmer of hope (like a Flintoff century) in the middle.

The day started decidedly wet, so I went foraging in the supermarket in order to fend off impending starvation. While eating my lunch, after restocking the freezer, the rain eased and the day warmed up. This triggered a barbel fishing response in me. I packed my gear and hit the road. Driving through heavy showers I feared a damp session, but on arriving at the river August was behaving itself with sun shining on the ripe wheat fields, from a blue sky dotted with fluffy white clouds.

With showers forecast I'd packed my brolly, making the trudge downstream hot and tiring with the extra weight and the burning (well, fairly warm) sun beating down on me. Beyond the obvious swims near the road those further down the river looked like they had seen few anglers in recent weeks, some from last season were completely overgrown and hidden by head high Himalayan balsam. On my way to the peg I fancied I threw a few pellets in a couple of the ones that were easily fishable.

On arrival it too hadn't seen many anglers' boots lately. The swim is underneath a willow and quite cramped, so I pushed in the rod rests, positioned my chair and set up the rods on the bank behind the swim. Once ready I cast one rod close in downstream, fishing a Tuff 1 on the hook. The second rod was to be cast across the river close to a bankside bush. That was the intention, but lead, bait and attached bag of pellets went in the branches. I managed to yank them straight back out and they ended up more or less where I wanted them.

I had just started on my second pork pie when the left hand rod, fishing across the river, started bouncing as something dragged the rig out of position. By the time I'd stuffed the remains of the pie in my mouth the debris was well downstream. and as I wound it in it continued kiting towards my other line. The culprit was an uprooted balsam plant. I removed it from both lines, cast out the near bank bait again and rebaited the other rod.

The next cast across the river dropped short. A new bag was attached for the recast which was heading straight for the bush until I stopped it with a jerk that caused the lead to eject from the paper clip. Somehow the hooklink parted too. After retackling I played safe, opting to drop the rig upstream, close in on a crease that had produced a fish for me last year. The underarm swing went well, but the line caught a trailing branch. No problem. Give the line a flick and it will come free. Or get more tangled...

The hook ended up buried in the branch, out of landing net reach, so I had to pull and see what would happen. Now, everywhere else I fish I use 30lb Power Pro as my mainline for barbel. On this small river I have been using mono for some unaccountable reason. Last season it didn't let me down, but I had respooled with slightly lighter line the other day. Nonetheless, 14lb should be enough to cope with any barbel that swims. Of course, I knew that pulling for a break would see the mainline to swivel knot being the weakest link if the hook wouldn't come free. Sure enough another lead went to a watery grave when the line did snap.

Retackling, yet again, the next cast was dropped short of the branch, very close in, and to my surprise a couple of line bites materialised. By now the rain had set in. I was sat in my waterproofs, under the willow, with my recently waterproofed brolly up the bank keeping my rucksack and stuff dry. The session had not started well.

Around seven thirty the rain stopped, signalling time for a move. The gear was soon in place in one of the swims I had baited, a swim that had been kind to me on a few occasions last season. Within fifteen minutes the upstream rod tap-tapped as if a chub was interested in the three pellet 'snake', then the baitrunner sprang into life as the tip pulled right down. A feisty little barbel then charged about under the rod end until it dived into the net. After rebaiting and recasting that rod I checked the downstream bait, only to find it attached to a waterlogged branch.

The pellet 'snake'

About ten o'clock I felt it was time for a final move to another baited swim. I picked up the upstream rod and it was snagged solid. The mono had no chance. I'd retackle when I got to the next swim. On picking up the downstream rod I found myself in a time warp. I thought it better to retackle both rods where I was to save unwanted flashing around of the head torch in the new swim. It was quarter to eleven when I eventually reached the last swim of the night, with midnight being my designated home time.

This swim is one I have had my eye on since last season, but never fished before. It looks good though with marginal cover and weed to mid-river. The pellet 'snake' was dropped in the margin downstream, and one and a half Tuff 1s cast out beyond the now invisible weedbed. I dragged the lead back across the gravel until it felt spongy, letting the bait, aided by the pellet bag, drift downstream and across towards me. The idea being to get the bait placed right by the outer edge of the weed fronds.

Another rain shower rolled in around eleven forty-five. A quick glance round the back of the brolly showed clearer skies not far away. I'd hang on until it faired off then pack up. Spot on midnight the mid-river rod top pulled over in a positive manner and I was leaning into a fish before the baitrunner had a chance to do its job. This felt a better fish, not powerful like a big fish, but certainly not a four pounder. With no snags to worry about I slackened off the drag a tad as the fish headed downstream under light pressure from the rod. So I have no idea why the line parted at that moment.

That was it. I'd had enough. What a nightmare. Bags packed and off home.

The odd thing is that I hadn't enjoyed my previous two barbel sessions of the season, and started out feeling pretty much the same about this one, but that lost fish has got me fired up to wreak revenge on the whiskery gits!

The negative of the session is that I had been a fool for using mono. I very nearly spooled up with braid, but thought I'd give mono another go - most other anglers seem to use it. They must be idiots...

The positives are rather straw like, in that I'm clutching at them as England do when a batsman makes fifty runs after a run of low scores but they still lose the match. I'd reproofed my brolly with Thompsons Waterseal a few weeks back, and it kept me dry. That was good. I'd tried the 'snake'. That worked. Most importantly I'd found another spot where barbel could be hooked, and there are a few more similar spots on the stretch - including a couple that I don't think see many baits.

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

In it to win it

Having a session where interesting things happen does give some inspiration to blog. Especially when it gives me an opportunity to have a dig at the 'internet' anglers who haven't a clue! Reading the barbel forum post about the Trent to get an idea of conditions it seemed like people were giving up after a couple of hours because they were sick of their rigs being dragged out of position by the amount of weed coming down. This is probably why I didn't see any barbel anglers on a couple of miles of river when I arrived.

The river was about a foot up and carrying a tinge of colour, not muddy at all, but just enough to hide the river bed in three foot or so. Nice. My first port of call was a stretch I still haven't got around to fishing, and by the looks of things neither has anyone else this season. The banks were totally overgrown with head high nettles and other vegetation. I walked a good distance and found some nice looking spots. Overhanging bushes and creases, gravelly glides and streamer weed. I did spot some weed floating down too. I had plenty of time to look around elsewhere and return later so headed off to a favourite stretch.

Again the river was empty of anglers, save for one packing his float gear away on the opposite bank. The path through the nettles had been opened up a little, but it was evident that the swims had hardly been fished since the season opened. The path beyond the favourite swims was almost impenetrable - and getting to one I fancied further down river would have required some machete work!

There's a path in there somewhere!

As this was my first river session of the year I wanted to kick off with a fish or two and soon had my gear in the very same swim I ended last season in. It's a bit of a banker despite the fallen willow having been washed away last winter. Taking my time I droppered out a sticky mix of seeds, pellets and groundbait onto the line of the crease. Slowly I set the rods up, and rather lazily left the same rigs on that I had last used in March. One advantage of braid is that you can get away with doing this without even retying the knots. I did change the baits though!

The rock hard boilies were removed and one rod rigged with a 21mm halibut pellet topped off with a seafood boilie to fill out the hair, and the other rod had one and a half Sonu Tuff 1s (blatant plug!) in Monster Crab and Mussel. I get lots of Sonu stuff for free (some is really good, some less so) so I felt I had to give these a try. Although they look a nice dark colour I was disturbed to discover that once they have been in the water they turn a bright emerald green! Both rigs had a large PVA mesh bag of mixed pellets added to the hook as is my habit.

Make the bait fit the hair...

As soon as I cast the first rod out to the crease I realised what the weed situation was like as the rod almost immediately pulled right round and the lead bounced along the gravel. Oops! Now this is where I used my nous. I've fished in these conditions before and one of the tricks for keeping the bait out as long as possible is to fish so most of the line passes through slacker water. This particular peg is a small eddy, and the water by the bank flows upstream with the slack slightly downstream. If I could position my six ounce lead (which will hold out better with weed on the line than a lighter lead) in the right spot, just inside the main flow, I'd be in with a chance. I cast the second rod to a fishless spot upstream, close to the bank to avoid as much weed as possible. This rod rarely produces, but it's another bait in the water.

The upstream rod was collecting more weed than the downstreamer. It was a bit of a pain removing weed every few minutes, but I was able to leave the downstream bait out for at least fifteen minutes without too much weed building up on the line. That's long enough as when I fish the feeder for barbel I will often recast at a similar interval.

There are other advantages that my rigs give me for fishing under these conditions. What people don't realise is that most drifting weed doesn't actually collect on your hook. It just looks like it does when you wind the rig in. Most of it actually collects on the line well above the end rig. The line isn't straight to the rod tip when fishing in a flow, it takes on a curve, and the weed collects at the point where the curve returns. As I use hooklinks of at least four feet this means the collected weed is not only above the rig, but often well upstream of it.

The hooklink itself is in two parts. I have a long length terminating in a swivel to which I loop-attach a shorter length of about eight inches with the hook on the end. This arrangement was originally devised to make changing hooks easier (partly as most hooklink damage occurs in the last few inches by the hook). It has two unplanned advantages. Firstly the weight of the swivel helps pin the hooklink down in the critical area near the bait. Secondly it collects most of the weed that would foul the hook.

The sun was shining with fluffy clouds in the sky so I expected action to occur later rather than earlier. At eight twenty the downstream rod pulled round more decisively than if a large lump of weed, or even a branch, had hit the line and the baitrunner creaked into life. The first barbel of the season was on! It put up a good scrap and once in the net I had to drop the weed enveloped lead in the net to be able to carry everything up the bank. The fish looked very lean, particularly around the back end, with a seemingly large head. It was hard to judge the weight. The scales revealed it to be a nine pounder. Hastily sacked, the bait wasn't recast while I set up the camera, took three quick snaps and put the fish back.

First of the season

The barbel police would say I did that all wrong and should have rested the fish in the net before weighing it, shouldn't have used a sack and should have rested it in the net prior to release. All I can say is that the fish fought its way out of my grip as soon as it felt the water over its gills. I really do wonder how long it takes these people to land their barbel...

More bait was droppered out before I recast. Then while washing the sticky residue off the dropper rod handle I lost the dropper. D'oh! The light was starting to fade but the weed showed no sign of disappearing. During daylight it was quite easy to see where the upstream rig had dragged to and judge when to wind it in for clearing of weed. But in the dark it was not so easy. By eleven I'd had enough of dealing with two rods - the downstream one being less trouble - and put the upstream rod back in the quiver with the now useless dropper rod.

I'd had a tidy away of the camera equipment and drunk my final cup of tea from the flask when the remaining rod pulled round again in a fishy fashion. This one felt a bit bigger. Or was the line carrying more weed? Once netted it looked a longer fish. Another lean one, it tried hard to make ten pounds but fell ounces short. The sacking and photographing process was repeated. I recast, had a final final cup of tea then headed for home half an hour later.

Getting bigger

In the end I think I picked the right swim as one that would have involved fishing in the main flow would have been frustrating in the extreme with all the weed in the river. Now I have my barbel gear sorted out I guess I'll be back at 'em again soon. Where, I don't know.

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Saturday, June 07, 2008

Got my mojo working

What a lovely summer day. The sun shone, the bees buzzed, England batted and bowled well, and the jinx is off! Only one bite but a fish landed. A strange bite too. The line tightened and the alarm sounded a couple of times as a coot popped to the surface near my maggot feeder. The coot was shaking some weed as the alarm continued to stutter with no line being taken from the reel. With trepidation I picked the rod up, felt something move, yet the coot remained undisturbed. Fish on!

The tench decided that it would kite over the line of my middle rod, then under the line of my right hand rod. After I had sorted the mess out and got the fish clear I saw another fish shadowing the tench, which was around the six pound mark. The shadower was a pike of maybe ten pounds. Needless to say this put the wind up the tench! As the tench swam to the right the pike followed it. When it ran out from the bank out of sight the pike went with it, to reappear behind the tench when I drew it back. Eventually the pike shot off when the tench splashed on the surface just before I netted it.

As can be seen, I was using was a Preston Innovations feeder modified to fish in-line. As they come the swivel attachment is weak and will snap off in use. I'm told this fault has been rectified, but it makes the feeders a perfect candidate for modification. After removing the swivel attachment holes are drilled in the centre of the cap and the closed end of the feeder. The holes should be just wide enough to accept the PVC (I think) tubing which is the key to the modification. I drill the holes slightly too small and open them out with a reamer to get the snug fit. The tubing I use comes from and old bulb release. It is the perfect size to grip a size 10 Power Swivel and does away with the need for tulip beads or neoprene sleeves attached to rigid tubing. I fit the feeder to the tube, running superglue around the it where it exits the end of the feeder. When set the tubing is trimmed to length.

My MkI version seen in the photo above revealed a problem in use. The end of the tubing sticking out of the cap was cut too short. When filling the feeder the cap would slide down the line making it a fiddle to replace - by which time half the maggots had wriggled out of the feeder! By leaving the tail a little longer and superglueing a tapered sleeve to it I hope to have solved the problem for the MkII model shown below. Although simply making the tail a bit longer still might do the same job and be cheaper. I'll try both options next time out.

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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Still jinxed

How many ways are there to write about a session where the bobbins never move and no fish are seen? I have a horrid feeling that the new bobbin jinx might be applying individually - one blank per bobbin. Anyway.

After mentioning the MCF Swordfish spod's foolproof release system I had a go at modifying a cheap spod to use the same mechanism. It looks a bit crude, but it works! A bit of bent wire, some braid, a swivel, a bead, a screw eye in the nose and I'm in business. Now I can make any spod I like retrieve effortlessly.

The 'highlight' of the session was trying to catch a Trent hamster in my landing net. No. I wasn't running around after it like a demented butterfly collector. The animal was running over the net laid on the ground. The plan was to lift the net and trap it - then stamp on its head. Ha! Rats have sharper reflexes than Lumbs. As time wore on it gained in confidence, making brief scurries under the rods to pick up spilt particles and even running under my chair at one point. Plan B was to stone it using a catapult. To my amazement this almost worked and I twice missed it by a whisker. I'm sure I heard the stone brush fur on the second attempt! The creature certainly didn't reappear after that.

Watching a male chaffinch eating and collecting particles from under the rods was more relaxing. It did seem to be picking the hemp seeds for preference and leaving the other seeds for last. Perhaps it's the oil in the hemp that appeals to birds as it does to fish?


Saturday, May 31, 2008


The session was doomed to failure before I left home. But it had to be got out of the way. I'd been on a tackle buying spree. A new spod and head torch weren't enough. No. There were some feeders bought to convert into in-line jobs, and - worst of all - three shiny new bobbins and isotopes. If there's one thing guaranteed to result in a blank, it's new indicators. At least the day at the pit was a pleasant one to spend admiring them. They they went up and down when I played with the line, so I guess they'll work okay when a fish eventually comes along.

Ironically the alarms and pod caught fish on their first trips, but indicators are a different matter. They're pretty though, you have to admit! They're part of my policy of mixing tarty and not cheap with cheap and cheerful. The pod is a Nash Hooligun 'entry level' pod. It has the advantage that Korum banksticks fit it. With two of those in the back position I can raise my rods higher at the back to get the tips low to the water. This is an advantage when waterfowl are about.

The spod certainly did the job, though, and I wish I'd bought it a couple of years back when I first saw one. I've used casting clips with spods in the past so they retrieve nose first, rather than backwards. But they were home made modifications that didn't always release and sometimes tangled. The MCF Swordfish is a bit different and (so far) releases every time, admittedly occasionally needing a jerk at the start of the retrieve. I now want a bigger one. Or I might get the wire bending tools out...

The first blossoms of spring on the blackthorn gave way to the white cascades of the hawthorn a few weeks ago. As those began to fade last week the elder was already in bud and is now in flower. A sure sign that summer is almost here. So, with June a couple of days away, I was rather surprised to hear, and then see, a cuckoo calling late in the afternoon. That, and watching a group of tree creepers feeding and squabbling in the willows almost (almost) made up for the blank. How some people can sit reading books when they are fishing is beyond me, there's always something interesting going on in the natural world if you keep your eyes and ears open. In fact there was so much noise from the birds in the surrounding trees and undergrowth (chaffinch, robin, sedge warbler, great tit, blackbird, and more I didn't recognise) that I could hardly hear my radio at times!

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Slow progress

It was back into the bunny suit after the brief heatwave. Not only was there a north-easterly blowing but there was also rain around. I managed to get set up in the dry after pondering my swim selection on the basis that nobody was catching much. The decision was made more on a whim than anything, selecting a deeper swim that hadn't been fished this season as far as I know. I kept the baiting to a minimum and cast three rods out all fishing different baits. Two method feeders were set up one fishing the standby of two grains of plastic corn, the other a 10mm pineapple Boosted Wrap. The third rod fished a maggot feeder with two plastic casters on the hair.

Unusually there were lots of small fish topping all along the bank from a few yards out to maybe thirty yards. Small fish don't often show on this lake, although I have had one day in three seasons that they have been a nuisance on the maggot rod. Grebes, terns and pike were making the most of this abundance of prey, all obviously catching small roach by the looks of things.

The first night was quiet. Not a peep from the alarms. Before dark I had swapped the Boosted Wrap for three 6mm Tutti boilie pellets, and when I started to wind them in in the morning a small pike of around two pounds grabbed them. Two red maggots were added to the bare hook on the plastic caster rig, and it wasn't long before a small roach was landed. Plenty of bites came to this rod, most failing to result in hooked fish. If I had scaled things down I'm sure that a number of small roach could have been had on single maggot. But that wasn't what I was after. Around noon the caster/maggot rod produced a bream of some five pounds, followed by another little roach.

Then, out of the blue, the alarm on the middle rod (fishing the corn) screamed out, and my best tench of the season so far was landed. Not fully filled out yet she was a sleek seven pounder. As I was weighing the tench the caster/maggot alarm bleeped once. The tench was sacked while I set up the camera and as I did so the line on the caster/maggot rod tightened and I pulled into what felt like a heavy bream. In the shallows it swirled and took some line, then all went slack. The hooklink had been bitten through. Pike. I guess that first bleep had been a roach hooking itself, to be taken by one of the pike patrolling the area.

The day was not exactly warm and not exactly cold. Despite the light rain, coming in showers of varying length, it wasn't unpleasant as things soon dried out when the rain eased off. The wind was cool, but not strong, although annoyingly unable to settle into one direction.

At eight in the evening a small bream picked up the caster/maggot combo, so for the dark hours I fished without the maggots - as I did for the following day. The idea being to leave the plastic casters to wait it out for a tench. Most of the night was quiet apart from a roach/bream hybrid of a couple of pounds that picked up a Boosted Wrap at one o'clock.

Sunday dawned brighter with the wind more steady in direction, and turned out quite warm in the afternoon. The grebes, terns and pike were joined by cormorants - all catching small fish well within casting range. One tern actually took a fish from the very edge, a foot or so from the marginal rushes. The bobbins, however, were still.

As I had had a flurry of activity around noon on the Saturday I intended to stop until one at the earliest, and stay longer if action was forthcoming. Sure enough, at a few minutes before twelve the bobbin on the caster rod dropped back slowly. So slowly I thought a small roach had picked up the bait, but when I wound into the fish it was obviously not a small roach but a tench. A six pound male as it turned out. This spurred me to stop longer. As the Test Match was interesting I thought I might as well listen until close of play. I did, but no further action was forthcoming.

A frustrating session is some ways, but the most tench action I've had on the lake so far this season. It certainly seems like there aren't many tench, and they are wandering around pretty much at random. If you pick the right swim then one or two might move through while you are there. As they are not moving around in shoals it doesn't make too much sense to put down big beds of bait. Having watched tench grazing in a bay two years ago I don't think they follow patrol routes. Those fish sometimes turned round and covered ground they had already been over. All pretty random as far as I could tell.

If this is what's happening then the light baiting/feeder approach is probably wise. There doesn't seem much point to pile in loads of feed and sit on it until the tench show up in numbers. It might be worth a try for the bream though.

A while back I got fed up of having to go and fetch my forceps from my rucksack when unhooking fish in the landing net, so I started clipping a pair to the mesh by the spreader block. This proved to be useful even when fish were to be weighed and were being unhooked on the mat. I wasn't too sure about the security of the forceps, so I pinned a 'zinger' to the net. This arrangement is working well so far - even if the 'zinger' is looking a bit rusty now!

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