Sunday 25 September 2011

Blenheim Palace... "It's a funny old game"

Blenheim Palace - a grand view indeed
Friday morning and we were off to Blenheim Palace for Keith's 40th Birthday fish-in. The day started early at Jeff’s house with a cuppa and a bacon sarnie at four in the morning! The car was quickly loaded and we headed off down the M40 towards Oxford. Obviously the only topic of conversation on the way down was of fish and all forms of fishing, so much so that we only went and missed the bloody turning off the M40 for the A34! 
Luckily this didn't matter as the rest of the lads were a bit late too. We finally arrived at the gates about 6am and met up with Keith, Pete, Martin and David. Tackle and bait was hastily loaded onto the boats, and walkie talkies handed out for direct contact with each other during the day (great ploy Keith).

Jeff was first to man the oars as we headed out onto a misty lake full of optimism. The others, being slightly quicker to organise themselves, meant we were lagging behind slightly but followed the other boats up towards the grand bridge.

Anchored up near to Keith and Pete’s boat,  we began by fishing a light float for perch with a sleeper rod out each for pike. Pike floats on and with baitrunners set so that any run would be sounded by the clicking of the clutch alerting us to a taking fish. Keith duly caught his first pike of the day within minutes of us arriving. The fight was quite an amusing affair as the fish swam around the anchor chain, but Keith skilfully threaded his rod under the chain to untangle the fish landing it safely, and without further incident. He caught another smaller fish a little while later.

I'd love to say that plenty of bites were forthcoming for us too, but there were no definite indications for hours that could be undeniably confirmed as a fish.  Jeff said he had a bite at one stage and I thought I did once too, but they were hardly what you would call sail away, if they were bites at all?   Jeff’s post covers the morning in more depth but suffice to say that in the grounds of such a fine palace we pretty much royally blanked from 6:45am right through to about 3pm. Jeff's brace of crayfish later on the only catch made on our intrepid vessel all morning.

"next bite and your mine"

got  ya!

After a stint down the other end of the lake over lunch, where we were thouroughly entertained by a grebe feeding small perch to her 3 adolescent chicks, we eventually came up with an inspired decision. "Let's head back to the bridge and see if there are any more fish up there - the winds blowing up that end of the lake after all". This turned out to be the best decision we made all day.

Back in position by the bridge I lobbed out a roach deadbait on the pike rod, and turned my attention to the float rod with a worm on a size 10 hook intended for perch or tench. I picked a position just a rods length out from the boat and baited it with a few handfuls of casters and maggots. It wasn't too long before my first proper bite of the day happened; I struck it clean and felt a heavy thud, thud, thud feeling as the fish hugged the bottom. I quickly made a grab for the landing net for the first time in about 8 hours of fishing, but before I really had time to think about what was happening the fish had woken up and had shot off under my pike line toward the middle of the lake. The clutch, being set a little too tight for 3lb line verses a strong fish (most probably a nice tench), meant the inevitable result - it quickly parted at the hook!

I tied a new hook on and got the float back in position checking the clutch again, gutted that I may have lost the only real chance of the day.  It was only minutes later though, that Jeff alerted me to the fact that the reel on my pike rod was starting to turn and rather quickly too, I struck and had a fish on!  On my request, Jeff moved my other rod to the back of the boat so it was out of my way, leaving me to play the hooked fish.  A welcome 8lb pike was the result of the take, saving my day from the dreaded blank we had been expecting since the mornings results.

A minute or so after this photo was taken, one of those totally unexpected events that can sometimes happen in fishing from time to time unfolded on our boat. Remember I said Jeff had moved my other rod, well he shouted out something about my rod? I turned round to see the rod hooping over just as Jeff was picking it up. "Feels like a tench" he said, the fish still deep and out of view. As it rose up through the surface layers I had a feeling it wasn’t, but I must leave it to Jeff to tell the rest of this part of the story. A mad 10 minutes had just ensued to lift us out of the doldrums and hopes were now high for more action.

I started to get more bites on the light float rod but I somehow kept missing them, not that I was too worried as the pike rod did its best to keep me occupied when a ticking clutch indicatd it was off again. This time a gentler run which stopped after a second or two.  With the float still moving across the surface of the water, and with rod already in hand line wound tight, I struck into the second fish of the day.  A short fight brought the fish closer to the boat where it surfaced in front of Keith and Pete.  "Bloody hell it's a tench!" Keith blurted out...and he was right.

4lb 8oz (sardine lover)
This fish was hooked fair and square in the mouth where it must have been mouthing the sardine tail at the cut end and picked up the trailing hook.  It's the first tench on a deadbait I've ever caught that's for sure. I don't think I'll be swapping from my traditional tench baits though; the nuisance pike might be a bit of a problem!

Pete (left) and Keith

Keith and Pete joined us again after my news update on the walkie talkies, and had some nice fish, both landing tench, Keith with a 7lber and Pete a new PB at 5lb 8oz.  Keith also landed yet another Pike at 15lb.

It was approaching 6pm when my pike rod was suddenly away again on another sardine tail.  I hit the fish, and so began one of the most epic battles with a fish I've ever had.  This fish felt in a different class to any previous pike I've ever played before as it went off on several powerful runs, stripping line off the clutch at will.  Now I'll freely admit that the clutch was set quite light, as I didn't want to risk a hook pull especially after losing that fish earlier on the float rod. The fish managed to take out some of the other lad’s lines during the fight.  Jeff's pike rig was first on my righthand side and was collected on my line dangling like washing. Then the fish surged across to the left over towards Keith and Pete's boat taking out one of Pete's floats ( I think he managed to free it though somehow).

The water still being quite warm at this time of year meant the fish was quite energetic, displaying some exhilarating tail walking, throwing the bait dramatically in front of Keith. Finally, it was in close to our boat but it wasn't happy, surging off on several more runs each time I tried to get its head up. I managed to get it towards the net that Jeff had waiting; the fish coming in on the surface like a large croc, gliding nicely over the cord.   Jeff wasn't quite quick enough lifting it up though and the fish tail-walked out of the net ever so slightly more pissed off by now!  My knees started to knock I think, and I was just waiting for it to throw the hooks.  Luck was on my side thankfully, and as it came in again  I guided it across the net cord again I shouted "lift, lift” to Jeff.  Faultless this time he lifted the net up with precision, engulfing the largest pike I've ever seen in the flesh, and a hard won prize was eventually mine.

After some speculation by the other lads the final weighing revealed my new PB of 18lb 10oz smashing my previous best by a cool 7lb. What a turnaround this day of two halves had been, and in the end was a very special one destined to live long into the memory I'm sure. Thanks to Keith for the idea of getting us all together and for the invite.

Martin & David plus "Blackie" the Antipodian Swan

Finally, commiserations must go out to Martin and David, who I know tried damn hard all day to get into the fish, but were just unlucky.  At least they got to see the potential that this beautiful lake has to offer though.

Tuesday 20 September 2011

Zeds again

Here's the pic of a zed I caught last week on the Avon while fishing with Andy Lewis (piscatorial pastimes) . It was a funny old session with lots of weed snagging our lines at times. We both had our rods pointed skyward to try to avoid the weed, but this wasn't ideal for my bobbin approach, I still managed to get it to work somehow.

4lb 8oz

We both caught, Andy landing a new PB at 4lb 14oz and I had two fish, the four above and a small 2lber. Both my fish were taken on hair rigged baits the hooks holding in the bottom of the mouth right at the front, making unhooking a doddle. I'm liking this method so far, although there were a few missed takes the first time I used it, I put this down to takes from smaller fish ( that's what I tell myself anyway !)

Looking forward to the next zander session in a week or two, just the small matter of a trip to Blenheim Palace to get out the way first, and maybe another quick go for the crucians, that's if the wife lets me nip out for the morning this weekend.

Sunday 18 September 2011

Better late than never ...

Crucian fishing is a summer sport I know, so leaving it till the leaves have started to turn was always going to be a little risky. This wasn't the plan earlier in the year of course, in fact I had trips to Marsh farm and other known crucian waters planned for this summer, but for some reason I haven't been able to get motivated enough to go for it until now.
The plan for this morning was to try a well known local lake where I've fished in the past for a morning stint bagging a few 2lbers and with an outside chance of something bigger.  For the challenge I also need to catch a king carp  of some kind, so a sleeper rod complete with pop up would have been lobbed out in hope of a nice bonus fish.  Unfortunately when I arrived there was a match on, bugger !

So onto Plan B - head to a club ticket lake to fish for cru's of a smaller stamp, but they'd be crucians at least. After waisting over an hour driving round the Midlands I was finally set up and ready to fish for about 9:30am.  Using a float rod and pin with one of my own crowquill float efforts ( they're actually rook quills), crude but as I found out,  perfectly functional and sensitive enough for these shy biting scallys.

A swim on the deepest side of the pool along the dam wall was chosen, in a quiet corner next to an overhanging bush. A few balls of some old method mix I had knocking around in the shed with some added green betaine swim stim combined to make a nice seedy, crunchy ground bait that would get any fish in the area picking over the tasty morsels it contained, hopefully they'd home in on my hookbaits too. 
A few roach and rudd, no more than bait size, were first to the table taking caster on the hook, which was pleasing as I knew the float was doing the job it was designed for.  After a while though, I started to think that I would go home with out landing any crucians.  I changed the size 16 hook for a small red drennan size 20 maggot hook and stuck on a red maggot.  It wasn't long before I was hitting a sudden sharp bite, the float disappearing and the rod bending into a thumping fish that circled round and round in a familiar motion. Was it a tench, was it a crucian ? the first boil on the surface didn't give away its identity until a sudden flop on the surface as it gave up and I quickly slipped the net under my first buttery bar of gold of the summer.

1lb 5oz
A badly over exposed shot, rescued slightly by a bit of grey scalling ! 

After a little trouble with the scales during the weighing, the battery running out at a crucial moment,  I swapped it for a spare and was able to give the fish a number.  Shame it wasn't the prettiest crucian I've ever seen, with an old injury or deformed tail and a bit of a manky mouth !

A small tench came to the net next, one that also took a red maggot.

The sun finally came out about 12 noon and it was almost as good as a summers day, it didn't seem to affect the fishing as I managed four crucians in total and a few more roach and rudd.

It was interesting when the bites started to get more and more finicky as time wore on - as if they were learning that something was up.  Changing the bait to corn or caster didn't help either as I could only hook any fish using red maggot. They did play about with other baits at times, but the bites were so miniscule it was near impossible to decearn them as bites. Proves the point that it's always a good idea to have a selection of baits to see what works best on the day.

The average stamp seems to be about a 1lb in this pool now with me landing three at a pound or more and just one under that mark.  This is a nice improvement since I last fished for the crucians here about 3 years ago. Who knows, if they are still on an upward trend and keep packing on the weight they could be averaging 2lb plus in the coming years.

Friday 9 September 2011

A mixture of fortunes

Listening to the traffic report as I got in the car to leave work meant a quick change of plans had me heading down the A46 towards the River Avon at Stratford, instead of heading up to the Trent on the M1, that had now ground to a halt on the section where I would have been travelling along it.  

The river looked low and clear, lower than my last visit a few weeks ago and the vast beds of weed could be seen clearly from my view crossing the foot bridge.  The swim I fished last time was occupied with a couple of hapless noddys, all plastic bags and cheap folding chairs, but luckily the other swim I had in mind was free, so I set up there.  Roach was the first target, so the feeder rod was quickly set up and cast in, bread on the hook and a crumb groundbait mix in the small cage feeder.

The action was pretty slack in fact I struggled to get any bites in the vastly reduced flow of the weir. The fish were there though, they were topping left, right and centre of me but they just couldn't be induced to take the bait.  I switched over to a smaller hook to try maggot and redworm and this gave instant results from the shoals of small perch.  Soon though I hit something that felt a bit better and I quite expected to see a 4lb bream rise up through the top layers and into my net.  I was surprised and then quite pleased to see a small eel wiggling its way towards me instead. Just a shame it was one of the smallest eels I've ever caught, not many points for that ! I contemplated using it as bait for my zander fishing later but decided to do my bit for eel conservation and let it go back.

A whole 7oz of wriggly slime !

Darkness was now drawing in fast so I thought about getting the zander rods ready. I realised that I'd left the deadbaits in the car ! not to worry though as the noddys had now vacated the other swim where I thought I'd have a better chance at some zander. I packed up the tackle and made my way all the way back to the car, dumped the gear I didn't need to lighten the load on the way back, remembered to collect the deadbaits then headed back to the zander swim.

I set up the rests for my preferred long drop bobbin indicators and cast the rods in both together. Just as I was just settling the second bobbin the first rod was away already. The rod hooped round into a satisfying fish and I was into my first river zander. The fish was hooked right in the front of its mouth, the whole rudd engulfed down its throat, thanks to the suggestion from merv to try hair rigged baits - it works, and no deep hooking!

4lb 10oz

After the first fish it was a hectic next half hour that saw me miss the next take on the second rod, then I connected to what I thought was another small zed. It was only when I peeled back the folds of the net that I realised this second fish was very spotty and brown, my first ever brown trout was banked. Not by conventional methods I know but it still counts to me.  Shame it's not worth any challenge points though,  maybe we should include all the game fish next time eh!

1lb 11oz Brown Trout

That was the last of my fish for the night, apart from one more aborted run that didn't hook up. I think the hair was too long on the second rod, the hook  just a little too far from the bait to be as effective - note to self, check length of hair next time.

Thursday 8 September 2011

Your time is never wasted...

I'm aware that some of us bloggers have been slowing down with the frequency of our posts lately. I don't know whether it's down to us all struggling or just that were running out of fresh ideas and interesting stuff to write about ? I've still been fishing here and there but admittedly haven't had much to report, a few more canal zeds, a roach and chub from the avon, and some more failed attempts at sea fishing have kept me busy over the recent weeks through August and into this current month.

Micro Zed !

On the subject of canal zeds, I've been wondering about the effects of the fish culling that BW have carried out during their electrofishing campaigns in recent years on  stretches of the midlands canals.  If they are taking out numbers of the larger zander and also pike to appease the match anglers  then this may explain the numbers of small zeds that we encounter on these systems.
I just wonder if they were to leave nature alone to do her thing there might be less of these smaller zander, as their numbers would be kept in check by these larger fish, giving a chance for the smaller roach,  gudgeon and other small canal species numbers to recover?

On to the Sea Fishing in Lincolnshire...

Blow lugg territory
lets pump it !

I also spent some time on the Lincolnshire coast trying in vain to catch firstly smoothhound, then when I couldn't get any peeler crabs I fished for anything that would take my bait. The bait in question now being freshly dug lugg worm.  Well I say dug I actually bought a bait pump and used that to pump out some blow lugg on the low tide, with some limited success. The locals round these parts all seem to pump for worms, but as I learned they go for the larger Black lugg that will only appear on the lowest tides of the cycle and will bury themselves in vertical holes. This is where the pump comes in, the pump is placed over the black lugg cast and the worm sucked out of its lair before it knows what's happening. 

blow lugg cast and blow hole

The blow lugg however lives in shallower tunnels that loop round in a U shape from cast to blow hole, so the most effective method is to dig them out with a fork to avoid breaking them.  I didn't have a fork with me only a kids plastic beach spade and after some considerable effort I failed to find any worms with it. So, instead I tried angling the pump at 45 deg to the hole to try to get some worms out intact.  I as able to extract a few as well, enough for the session and without ripping too many to pieces.

it's a fish delacacy round these parts

 This was not the right tide for black lugg so the blow luggs were the only option I had anyway. I 'd bought my bait pump from a local man who also happens to sell frozen baits to the tackle shops and anyone who managed to find out abot him. His frozen baits would always be my back up option, but I was determined to find my own bait.  He told me how to go about it and where to find the beds of black lugg ( on the right tide). Alhough this didn't help me on this visit, I am all set for my next visit in the Autumn when the bass and codling will be in, along with hordes of whiting. Shame there were no fish about during my 4 days there ! Appently there had been little caught for the past weekor so.  And it was also noticable by the lack of other anglers on all the popular marks - which says it all really.

One thing I realised whilst spending most of  my available fishing time (early mornings) hunting for bait rather than fishing, is that despite blanking during this trip,  time is never wasted especially while your learning about  new styles and techniques of fishing and even new bait gathering methods. In fact lugg worm digging could be a pastime in it's own right !