Sunday, 18 February 2018

Boat Pikeys.

 It's been nearly three months since I last took the boat out and my god it does feel like it, with slightly poor circulation of air in my fishing den it had a little mould beginning to form on it so the intention was to go for a gentle motor up the Thames to wash it off. Hmmm, I had visions that the river would be at its normal winter level, it is safe to say I was wrong!, the ample rainfall has the Thames pushing nice and hard with a distinct colour to it which I thought would make it very tough for Pike fishing.

Glad I and the vice-admiral don't suffer seasickness!
 Brian and I got the boat set and we hit the high seas, it really did look and feel as if we were on the sea, plenty of power in the flow, decent chop and that crisp sea-side feel out of the sun. I have to be completely honest that my confidence was not high, typically trips out in search of Pike in coloured waters have not been successful, I could only try knowing that we had six hours on the water. We both set up and put out a bait each, the piking pirate turned briefly after casting out to pass me his sandwiches to put in the dry bucket, within twenty seconds the bait was cast out and taken, the float had vanished before he turned back, now that's a confidence booster, a jack within a minute of anchoring up!

 For me that early fish filled me with an early optimism, as the hours ebbed by and the tide came up to it's full volume my confidence had wained away entirely, then out of nowhere my float finally bobbed and slipped away as if to keep my focus on the job. That was the take I'd waited for, a good pull on the end was all I wanted, so that's what I got.

Not quite a double, but hooray its a pike!

 I did earlier in the day suffer a couple of dropped runs and a lost Pike but not to cry over spilt milk I continued to see if something would finally come good.

A Beautiful winters sunset over the tidal Thames. 

 On something of not such a good note I found this horrible little rascal hunting on a local river of mine, something I've never seen before and had the displeasure of witnessing it catch a gudgeon of around 1.5oz which it had broadside across its snout before disappearing into some overhanging bushes to eat its breakfast, not good to see at all!


Thursday, 15 February 2018

River Test Roaching.

 For more than a week leading up to last Saturday I had dreams every night about monster roach, specimens over 3lb certainly live here and the numbers of 2's are amazing, catching them however has proven so far to be a very difficult task. I like to think I know a thing or two about catching large roach as over the last 17 years the number stands at 28 over the 2lb mark, my ultimate fish of a lifetime would be a three-pound specimen, for me, that would be the pinnacle of my angling achievements regardless of what I achieve thereafter.

 Trotting waters where these creatures reside just gives me goosebumps, the deep glides amongst the far bank tree-lines and swirling pools are the real lures when I begin fishing them. These very swims are where I began my pursuit last weekend. 430am wake up call and on the road before 5am sounds crazy and yes, it might be, but with a 80 mile journey ahead and a sunrise at 720am time was and always is of the essence. Roach simply have that ability to captivate me like no other species. Armed with all the best winter baits for roach I felt confident that should their location be found I stood half a chance to get amongst a few, however, the game fish ( Brown Trout and Grayling ) are also in good numbers here which does make targeting the roach even more of challenge.

Sunrise to rival all, truly magical, but cold at -4c.

 Grayling seemed to be playing ball early on as a few came in quick succession to just over a pound before the Trout moved onto the loose feed and proceeded to trash the run, it was soon time to move on as once the trout really get feeding the competition is so one-sided, everything just either moves up or down or as often is the case shut up shop until the trout ease up. I find with roach they feed best when the trout aren't present at all, so floating trout out of a trot with bread crust often works wonders, not fool proof by any means but better than nothing. Throughout the next four runs all I could find was more eager trout until I came across a nice slow deep run which typically isn't a natural holding area for trout, a couple of maggots were flicked out before fishing and my second trot down resulted in an above average grayling of a pound or so, not bad but not as big as the next one.

 I sent my 7BB float, bulk shotted, down the run again and as it reached a dead spot where the float eased off the flow it sailed away, I struck into the fish and it leapt clear like a trout, it looked like one too, so to keep it out of the swim from ruining it further I played it fairly quickly, luckily for me it didn't come off, as it approached the net out of the deep water it quickly became a big grayling! it wasn't panic stations and all that but that could have gone wrong easily, not this time though. A stunning 2lb 2oz grayling lay in the net whilst I waited for a gap in the rain to take a photo, it wasn't easy either.

 Not a monster roach but a big grayling are a very pleasing substitute, it wasn't the only one either, an hour so later, a couple of hundred meters downstream I landed another exactly 2lbs which took maggots just 10-12 inches under the surface in four feet of water, I could have sworn it was a trout for a few reasons, alas, I was very happy to see it nestled in my net. The session had taken a rather expected turn in relation to the grayling showing in good numbers, the roach population still remained completely anonymous.



 When roach are difficult to locate I tend to just fish areas where I can't see the bottom, on the Test there aren't many areas where this isn't possible and often a nice tree-line would also play into my hands, both of which were present on this next run, I decided to spend the rest of the day fishing and had some success on the redfin's front as a flurry of activity over the course of a forty five minute period saw seven roach to 1.07 come to the net before the trout realised there was food available, bane of my life! But a great day in what initially started in appalling conditions after sunrise and the weather closed in, as the forecast predicted.

Little beauties.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Gracious Gudgeon.

 Is there a more enigmatic species than the Gudgeon, for months on end they vanish, as if they aren't even in the river at all, its a complete mystery as to where they go, yet in the blink of an eye they appear. Last week Wednesday I popped down the local for an hour after work, with the intention of christening my new acquisition which is the new Maver Reactorlite 12ft feeder rod 2-piece, super lightweight and looks the business, it comes complete with three tips for varying targets.

 The plan was just to sit behind the quiver until dusk, Gudgeon the main target but Roach and Barbel were also a possibility and after 30 mins or so of basically nothing more than a few tentative touches a fish finally slipped up, funnily enough it was the species I was after, a big one too at 2oz 6dr, best of the season and unfortunately my only fish of the brief trip. Short and sweet, over and out.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Winter Blanks, Part and Parcel.

 Over the course of this winter (when I've been in the country) I have found fishing quite challenging and that narrative seems to have continued, much to my disappointment. I was rather hoping for a purple patch where I got amongst some big fish. So far my winter fishing except for the Pike has been dour, conditions can be blamed but the buck often stops with me and my ability. The ever evolving angler will come across times when fishing is hard, just have to learn whats not going right and try to affect it.

 What with only six weeks of the river season left and so much still to aim at I can only manage short little trips locally as the post-christmas madness ensues where work picks up very quickly thus leaving with not much time and an untimely car issue that required a repair which rendered that out service for last weekend where I had the chance to shoot down to a Wessex river.

 Rewind just a week before and I enjoyed a trio of barbel in just a couple of hours (10.06, 8.06 & 8.02), seven trips later which included five blanks, I added a further five barbel to that tally, three being youngsters around the 3-4lb mark, the other two were slightly more reasonable weighing in at 8lb 13oz and 6lb 7oz. Both taken on the float, which is a method of angling for barbel I adore, I just wish I could catch more doubles on the tactic, although you can only catch what's in front of you and over the last few years the doubles have been disappearing with only a smattering of them left as the youth are pushing through and the cycle will hopefully turn full circle over the coming years (possibly by 2022).

 During my run of five blanks I fished all kinds of tactics, from roving about to staying out up to 90 minutes in each swim and laying a small bed of bait down with the hope of marauding fish finding my offerings and slipping up, I went through the phase of lengthening hook-lengths to fishing single baits, to small PVA bags and so on, no matter what I tried the outcome was the same. Maybe the fish weren't there but during this time of the year barbel are very predictable fish and I know "most", not all of their hold ups where depressions in bottom offer slightly more cover, these are often what I target knowing catches are more likely. Maybe they are just feeding late at night when I'm not on the rivers, over the next couple of weeks when a snippet of time comes up I may stick it out just to see if that theory rings true.

Best at 8lb 13ozs
 Current stocks are impressive but many small fish which bodes well for the future. This presents me with a dilemma as really would love to achieve a 15lb+ barbel over the course of the next 12 months and feel to do this I'll have to go elsewhere, as much of a shame as it is there isn't much point trying for something that ultimately isn't possible and efforts can be pushed elsewhere, so thats what I intend to do.

 Catching barbel of this size though can never be disappointing and on the contrary I still enjoy every scrap now as I did when I caught my first one of 7lb 10oz when I was just 9 years old.....21 years ago!

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Winter Roving, Excellent Sport.

 During the winter most barbel anglers either go static in their approach or completely put their gear away and await the opening of the new season, I, however look forward to the time of the year when we have increased flows and less weed to work around. Long trots using bread, free lining or rolling all manner of baits is very much the flavour of the winter and this doesn't mean just big rivers, it's also a good tactic for smaller waters where stealth is absolutely integral to catching.

 Last weekend I had a short session squeezed in after a morning of clearing up and I wasn't left in any doubt that it was a great decision, not even three hours of marching around, possibly trying my luck in twenty spots I had the pleasure of three fighting fit barbel, all of which were of good size with two weighing 8lb+ ( 8.02 & 8.06 ) and the biggest at 10lb 6oz.

The 8.02 which was a real stunner.
This was the double in fine fettle.

The bend on that !

 The Mark IV doing its very best to tame anything it can connect with, so far I've had carp to 28lb 3oz, chub to 5lb 9oz and barbel to 10lb 7oz, I am hoping next season it will tame even more beasts as it will make more trips out with me.

Chub Challenges.

 When it comes to winter fishing the Chub are a very obliging species to target, which is good for me as I leave home sometimes deciding what I should go for, often I make my mind up on route to wherever it is I'm going. Leaving the manor without a concrete idea on what I'm angling for does put me at a disadvantage occasionally, that however is the way I've always fished.

 Three days of solid fishing which began not 3 hours after arriving at Gatwick. Through the border control, then waited twenty minutes for the backpacks to come along the carousel, then a brisk march along the winding corridors into the terminal building, then onto our train back into London. Barely home for an hour and the gear was packed, I was ready to go. Bait wise I didn't have much but four pints of maggots, a loaf of bread and a tin of meat, the bread was my obvious choice to start with and within ten minutes my keep net was in position with a lively Chub of 4lb+ thumping the end of it trying to escape.

Mint winter Chub of 4lb+

 For the next two hours I added another five Chub up to the high 4lb bracket, great fun on the light gear but more annoyingly I lost two fish in quick succession to an unseen snag which was held up in maybe 5ft of water, it wasn't ideal thats for certain, why does this happen?, The Chub seemed to be feeding confidently which was more apparent by landing six, but to hook and loose two in consecutive trots was strange. I continued to trot this particular run which was around 70 yards before it shallowed up for possibly thirty minutes after the sixth with no further response from the remainder of the shoal.

A manic spell, quite often how it goes.

 A move downstream to pastures new failed to produce a single fish, although a few tentative bites came along sporadically none of them seemed as if they would produce a fish, I had plenty of ideas as to why it was fishing so hard but no matter what I tried I couldn't make it happen.

 Day two and change of scenery, the hope was that the cold rains hadn't put the fish off. The river was in good nick as I expected, pace was perfect, colour slowly dropping out. It spelt success. If only they could be located. The previous day the bites came early on so the plan was to get on the feeding, possibly for 20 minutes before casting in. Twenty minutes later it was time to go down the run and the float was just about to reach the end of the run when the float buried, fish on! But, oh no, it was gone, not five seconds on and the float pinged out of the water. I bought the gear back and inspected the hook which was brand new and sharp as a tack.

 More feed went out, the float was sent back down the run again, the float barely got twenty yards down the run and off it went again, four or five seconds later the fish went solid, the outcome all to familiar. That annoying process continued for another half a dozen trots as I connected with a total of five fish, all which I believe to be Chub. I could do nothing to stop them from getting their heads down and into the weed. The loss of those fish killed off the swim, however I didn't come to that conclusion immediately as I trotted it for another four hours before giving up.

 It was tough!, the remainder of the day was spent trying to find Chub, that task ended up with me throwing in the towel an hour after dark, I couldn't believe through the amount of promise the beginning of the day bought that it could end in a blank.

A magnificent sunset.
 Day three, was slightly better due to the fact I finally managed to bank 2 Chub, nothing big but a welcome sight seeing how tough day two was. It is mind bending how the river could look so good and produce so little, it is conceivable my tactics weren't spot on, the fish had fed during the bulk of the high water and their feeding spell had tailed off or worse still I was possibly a day or two early as the fish sought more settled conditions before gorging themselves. Whatever the reason I was just thankful my 220 mile round trip wasn't a complete blank and some fish were tempted.

 Eight Chub in three days.......I guess I'll take that.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Frome Frustration.

 Ah, the Dorset Frome, equally as pretty as it is hard most of the time. I, in eight days spent fishing it have never experienced " a good day", infact that's a lie, I had one once upon a time otherwise it seems to either be hard or very hard, not that it dampens my spirit of course as why would it? what other hobby gives a human the need to get out in such brutally cold conditions? I don't think theres many anglers out there that would undertake something as mad, was possibly -5c when we arrived. The Great British countryside in the depths of winter is as beautiful as it is the summer, just without the midges and scores of nettle stings.

A sky of fire!

 It's a long drive down, 2hr and 20 min on a good run or 121 miles each way, before starting off, in the dark of the night I was sifting through my "Angling Compound" for the remaining bits of kit I'd need for the day trip as *it is criminal making such a journey for a day's fishing* ( I have done it in the past ), however, I don't like to waste a good opportunity to get my line wet, two days is better than one! After I'd finished faffing around in the shed and creating all sorts of noise, much to the dislike of my light sleeping neighbours I drove the short journey down the road to pick up the partner in crime.

 "We only had one day, criminal isn't it, Nearly 5 hours of driving in one day and 250 miles of driving with 10 hours of fishing sandwiched in the middle".

 Once Brian was on board with his tackle we set off for the south-west of England to where they speak of big Grayling, not that we see many of course, we just do it for fun in the vein hope one of us gets lucky or accidentally hooks one in the mouth whilst pretending to fish. It was hard!

Which one, I love them both.

 Really there wasn't much to elaborate on as bites came very slowly and I honestly tried my best, when we arrived on the river we could see that colour from recent rains hadn't dropped out with possibly 6 inches of extra water still thundering through, fun, especially for Grayling. Luckily one slipped up around 1pm which weighed 1lb 8oz, not before I hooked and landed my first ever Salmon ( around 4-5lbs ), I didn't have the pleasure of weighing it as I was mindful of its duty which lye ahead.

 Dusk came quicker than I'd have liked. As both Brian and I were thinking of packing up in preparation for the long journey back my tip twitched momentarily and then tore off as if a Barbel had taken the bait, the pin screeching had my attention rather swiftly. For three or four minutes I was locked into battle with an unseen fish, certainly not a Grayling, too heavy, not a Salmon, not erratic enough, Carp? didn't know there was any in there, having played out in my head what was on the other end the roll of a small Common on the surface revealed all. Little blighter!

A pretty one in her winter splendour.
 That was all she wrote.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Dace O'Clock, the Hens Begin to Show.

Looking splendid in the frosty morning sun.
 Before I flew off to Asia for five weeks over December to Mid January I did embark on a couple of trips, one which I'll touch on in another post and this one, a short trip to a favourite chalk stream of mine where big Dace take a leave of absence for what seems like a couple of years. For possibly ten years, maybe even more I have conceived every possible reason for their miraculous disappearing acts, one season it's boom, the next, bust. Quite often more.

 This season however I have already located a shoal of possible monsters with a couple spotted likely to get close to magical barrier of a pound, the premier league of Dace weights. Knowing where they are doesn't guarantee you one, furthermore, they seem to move with great mobility. Many times I have done my level best to keep track of them, yet a shoal, sometimes sixty strong in a hole the size of a dustbin lid under a bush and you'd never know they were there. The task of catching the larger ones isn't an easy one, that said, I relish a challenge and would love to get my greasy mitts on another 1lb+ Dace. In the past I have been very lucky to cross paths with seven of them in my twenty plus years of angling.

 With a few days prior to my departure a morning became free to go fishing with, what could be better than targeting Dace with ultra light tackle. I confess that even though in physicality they are small, there is something about their fight which it rather addictive, that Grayling like corkscrewing through the pacy water before trying their best to shed the hook, which happens often when they aren't feeding confidently and the hook doesn't set correctly.

 No such misfortune on this particular trip as white maggots seem to be order of the day when a shoal was finally located, I had around an hour on the shoal taking six fish to 12oz and a few drams (pictured below), no doubt larger fish reside within this pod. A little more time on them should start to unearth the monsters I believe to be present.

Best of the trip. 12oz+
  It will take possibly another four weeks before the Dace really start to fill out and the large hen Dace will possibly be within touching distance of the pound mark and the odd couple will have already surpassed that incredible milestone.