Friday 22 February 2013

Higher than a Jack ....

 I've not seen a decent pike in ages, and it's been getting pretty frustrating. The fact that I seem to have turned over to the dark side and become almost a lure only angler may have consigned me to jack city you might think, but you'd be completely wrong of course. You'll catch a lot of jacks along the way sure, but the bigger fish are always one cast away if you can find them.  
Recently I've been chasing some of the fish on a local river, one that I can easily nip down to on my way to work. This has enabled me a few more casts after fish that I just wouldn't have be able to try for if I was using other tactics like baits, it fits perfectly into my limited available bank time.
 I was on one of these sneaky little half hour visits, stopping on the way to work for a quick go before hitting the rush hour motorway. I managed to land a small jack before tempting this fat little lump up from the bottom of the river. Not quite the mid double I'm after but at 9lb 10oz it's a definite step in the right direction and a respite from the endless jacks I've been catching.  I think there's the potential for some bigger fish in the stretch if I can tempt them in time before the close season. There's also the need to get out on some larger rivers like the Trent or Dove where I could be in for some much bigger fish if only the conditions will hold right long enough, especially at weekends which is the only time I can get on them ! 

nice pose -shame about the crap quality photo!

Thursday 21 February 2013

Meanwhile ..back at the palace

A trip down to Blenheim Palace with your mates is a great day out, messing about in boats and flinging a few hopeful baits into the water. However the day had started off with a bit of a rush down the M40 to get there as I managed to completely  misjudge the journey time and arrived 30mins late meaning Andy my boat partner had already loaded up the heavy motor and battery onto our vessel, and was waiting ready to go when I  eventually turned up with my kit ( oops !).  We set out onto the eerily misty lake with thoughts of monsters as we headed to the Grand bridge to meet up with the the lads in the other two boats in our group.

The bridge attracts pike and perch at certain times of the year, but not today it seemed as we all failed to find anything despite the whole area being well covered for a hour or so by our three boats.

Having the Fish finder on board helped to confirm where the depth changes were but I was a bit surprised how shallow and uniform the bottom is in that area, but still with an average four to five feet it's quite deep enough to hold fish of any size. We searched for the old river bed channel under the main arch to find a change in depth to fish to.

it's gotta be a whole inch deeper here !
After a certain amount of inactivity you do tend to get the inevitable itchy feet and then a move is usually called for. We were soon headed back towards the boat house to check depths along the margins. Parallel to the tree line we found depths now in excess of 10 ft and some nice humps and drop offs down to about 14ft were noted as we headed down towards the deep end of the lake near the waterfall.  

We anchored near the dam wall and chucked out the float ledgers whilst casting about with the lure rods.  It wasn't too long when Andy remarked " I never feel that these soft jigs are going to work"  just in time for his rod to hoop over right on cue. "Fish on" came the shout and he wasn't even winding me up ! The fish broke surface and in my head the expected jack suddenly turned into a large perch ? no, surely that's not a carp is it ? no no hang on it's a feckin Trout !

Andy was pretty mortified to catch a trout but I thought it was quite a nice brownie and must have been a good 3lb or so.
After that little bit of excitement the fishing was slow again and we were soon heading back up the lake towards the arm. We saw one of the other boats ahead of us but reports confirmed that they had not had any luck, however Dan on the third boat had chinned out a nice scraper double on the lure rod which was encouraging news.

the dead cormorant tree

We stopped at various fishy looking spots and found more humps, bumps and drop offs that "felt right"  but didn't produce any signs of a fish.
Dozens of spots like this along the way - but all appeared devoid of fish ?
Finally we turned left and headed up the left hand bank of the arm, but hang on what was that ? The fish finder just indicated some fish by bleeping at us!  Then it did it again. We cast around with the lures only to constantly snag them on the sunken branches littering the lake bed a few feet below us. Luckily I managed to get my jig free each time as with strong braid you can simply pull the boat up to the point it's snagged and yank it free.  Andy wasn't so lucky though and lost a couple of wormy type jigs including the trout catcher. After a fruitless search of the arm, and deciding that the fish we found tight to the snags must have been a shoal of bream or silvers and not a shoal of four pound perch, we headed back to the bridge and found Dan working the area meticulously with his light lure set up.

A bit of R&R time

After a chat with Dan and a little siesta it was decided to head back to the boat house for last knockings, The other lads were already in position on the right side of it so we manoeuvred over to the left side allowing room for any boats to come in that wanted to.

Andy soon piped up again with a Cyril Chauquet'esque "Fish on" and landed a jack of 3 to 4 lb.  It was now pressure on for me to get on the score board and try to maintain my clean sheet of non blanks at Blenheim. The other lads looked like they were giving up, but I was still optimistic of a late take especially as we were just into the last hour of light, the witching hour, which is always a special time. Then my float twitched, the bow in the line pulled tighter from tip ring to the float. It fell slack again, I thought it might be from boat movement, then the float moved to the side and line started to tighten "Shall I hit that" ? I asked knowing I was going to anyway and wound the slack up and felt the rod bend into a fish. It was soon up on the surface but was not the hoped for big girl,  just another jack.

However all was not as it seemed, this was only the same bloody fish Andy had just put back 15 minutes before. It must have swam away from the boat up the lake and towards my waiting bait.

on a lure
Or on half a herring  - this was one hungry Jack
( check anal fin and eye pattern in both fish)
 That was the last of the days action as we soon hauled our gear from the boat and back up the hill to the cars and headed up the motorway.  No big pike were landed but one of the lads on the other boat reported a good solid run that didn't connect, whilst the other had a run that did connect but unfortunately to a diving cormorant ! I presume it spat the bait and flew off a little surprised !
I expect I'll be back again at some point in the future as it's such a serene place to fish, difficult yes, but even if you blank you would do in surroundings that are certainly easy on the eye.

Sunday 10 February 2013

Sink n Draw

I managed to oversleep so didn't get to the river till 8:30 this morning ! still the river wasn't up as much as I thought, but was starting to colour up a bit.

Since losing a fish last week on a soft 4play lure and then subsequently losing the lure afterwaeds, I had tried to buy a new set of them off eBay. The item didn't arrive though as the seller had run out of stock ! brilliant, and I'm still waiting for a set of the smaller 9.5cm lures to arrive that he offered me instead. This was from a top rated seller too, I've only ever fell foul of a scam once before on eBay in nearly 10 years so we'll see how this one pans out !

Anyway, back to the river this morning, I realised that the way the soft 4play fishes is, in effect, the same as twitching a small roach or sprat along sink n draw fashion. It flutters up and down when you slowly draw it back which gets even the most dormant of pike excited. the only problem is finding the pike's lye.

I headed out with a bucket of roach, chub and sprats to try and cutting a long story short I caught just the one Jack again (covered in leeches) on a small chublet twitched past a line of overhanging branches - in what were fast becoming difficult conditions with the river colouring up quickly as it rose steadily with the persistent rain over the last 24hrs or so.

On the up again

Hoping to get a fish up to mid double size from a river before the close, starting to feel the pressure now !

Loss of a Legend

Terry Lampard
(Read First Cast if you haven't already )

Saturday 2 February 2013

Win some and lose some...

 I'd been itching to get out on the bank all week and while trapped at work sitting in the office seeing the lighter nights slowly but surely creep out later and later as each day passes,  I just had to have a quick go on the cut on the way home from work on Friday.  The time when I can fit in some proper  evening sessions after work is not too far away now, but in the mean time the weekends are my only real chance of any serious lure fishing.  Despite this fact, a couple of casts of a lure in the dark is often enough to snare a nocturnal Zander, after all their eyes are designed for hunting in dark or very low light and by nerve cells in their lateral line they can easily sense signals of an injured prey fish passing close by in the dark. You do need to cast in the right spot though to give yourself any chance of success, and prior knowledge of these fish holding spots is the key to this. This knowledge was borne out again when I hooked a lively little zed first cast after just a few turns of the handle.  He'd absolutely mullered the soft 4play lure engulfing the whole 13cm of it into his mouth cavity. I had a job getting the main treble and stinger free and had to go in through the gills to free them, which did cause a bit of bleeding. It was only superficial damage though and despite me leaving it in the net for a while to drown, the fish managed to swim off strongly back to its home in front of the dead reed bed !! I just can't seem to get the hang of this no return bye law for zander.

Another bleeding survivor

A hour or two on the river on Saturday morning saw me fishing the same lure in the hope of a pike or two. The recent flood water having subsided enough I was on the bank just at first light. The first two swims produced nothing, and when one of the bailiffs came past letting me know I'd just moved from the swim where the big pike live, I thought well at least I'm in the right area.
Next swim along and the lure was slammed at my feet by a nice looking double on the first cast. I saw the fish surge from the bottom towards the lure but as it hit it the hooks didn't take hold and the fish disappeared again, bugger! I tried a few more casts to see if it would strike again but as is usual in my experience the fish was not gonna fall for that so easily again for a little while anyway.  
Further downstream there was evidence of the recent storms creating a nice fish holding area for the future if the club and EA decide to leave it be ? I suspect it will be gone by spring though.

 I tried a few more swims up to the end of the first meadow before head back on myself on the way back. Back at the start of the stretch is a sluice gate where the water flows into a small pool, "here be monsters" according to the bailiff.
So never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I had a few last casts with the soft 4 play to finish off the session with the hope of a monster in my thoughts. Shortly the 4play lure was snagged on something solid and unmovable on the bottom and despite my best efforts to retrieve it the trace wire snapped before the hooks straightened ! I think a slight kink that I noticed had formed might have been the weak spot, but of course I never changed it thinking it would be OK for the rest of session !
I tied a new trace on and slipped on a Kopyto size 4 in bright orange with an enticing yellow tail to waggle behind it. After losing the pike earlier and then my favourite lure I felt I deserved a fish. The new lure bounced nicely along the bottom of the river then weaved it's magic as the rod hooped over and a pike pulled back. The fish took some line although I had the clutch set very loose to allow a take to be free to run easily. No monster fish this it was soon in the net saving me from the another blank. I'm looking forward to the fishing the river when it clears a bit more as there seems be a good head of pike here. I'm not sure if there's anything really massive in this stretch of river but one or two high doubles might be on the cards I hope.  I have a few more weeks to find out !