Something a little different (Entry 189)

It must be getting on for a year since I last fished a river. A staggering statistic considering they are, without doubt, my favourite type of water to fish. Big or small, low and clear or up and coloured, I just love the challenge flowing water brings. Their ever changing quality and the fact there is no way of knowing just what fish are in front of you. They are certainly intriguing places. I arrived at midday to a low, clear river, but I still felt quite confident of a bite or two. Maybe enthusiasm was masking better judgement. Fellow anglers were thin on the ground, and the ones that were there, all talking of how tricky the river was fishing. I really hoped they were wrong.

Their thoughts and opinions were not ignored however and whilst I tackled up, just one rod to make my presence less intrusive, I opted to fish fine and cautiously. Barbel would still be my target but the tactics would be less ‘heavy’ than usual. It would be interesting to see if this softly-softly approach worked and what would be tempted in amongst the barbel. I rigged up a light bomb rig, just capable of holding position in the faster water, three quarters of the way across the river. Instead of feeding with a feeder or suchlike, I would feed the small pellets with a catapult, little and often, just like I was trotting a float. My plan was to cast more frequently too, searching the swim for pockets of fish, instead of sitting idly for periods of time and simply waiting.

A barbel to start

It didn’t take long to get that first bite. Twenty minutes or so since my first pouch of bait settled, the rod tip lurched over in a most familiar way, a barbel had to be the culprit. My light rod soaked up the fishes lunges, which instead of powerful, surging runs, were moderate nods and head shakes. Dare I say, more of bream, than barbel. I calmly led the fish into the shallower margin of my own bank, and here the fish made a few runs, ones that were easily cushioned by the rod blank. At the end of one such run a moderate sized whiskery head popped above the surface. Under controlled strain I rolled the fish backwards and over the net. That will do just fine!

A 'choach' amongst the chub

After the barbel, I had a run of small chub, nothing bigger than two pound, but it was great to see so many smaller fish present. Mixed in with them I had a roach/chub hybrid that, when still a distance from the bank, had me nervous for a time as I thought I had hooked a big roach. Not so, but a beautiful fish, a little under two pounds. After a small lull in activity some very fast, hard to hit bites plagued me. A shoal of dace, attacking the bait on the drop and after one or two of them were caught, a small brown trout made an appearance. Five species and counting. I couldn’t stay until dusk today, so come early evening, I made my last cast. The reward was another bottom feeding ‘monster’ of the river; a two ounce gudgeon. Four barbules to start with and two to end.

A gudgeon to finishThanks for reading,

NorthwestFisherman

Tench fishing sunset (Entry 188)

The nip in the air made it feel like I should perhaps have been heading to a river rather than to the banks of an intimate cheshire pool. Surely, it wouldn’t be long before the tench put on their winter coats, and sit it out until next spring. Yes, I thought as I headed through evening rush hour traffic, I’ll definitely make this my last tench trip of the year. I found the pool empty upon arrival so headed for a peg I have done well on in the past. It just so happens that on my way around I saw the unmistakable signs of tench feeding, in a swim I had never fished before. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, and being a firm believer that you can only catch whats in front of you, in this case quite literally, my plan was quickly changed and I made myself comfortable in the unfamiliar peg.

Mr tench

Feeding a small amount of pellets and hemp whilst I set up, the fish bubbles temporarily abated, but much to my delight begun again, pretty much on top of where I had fed not minutes before. I had a bite on my first cast, a very tentative one, which I missed. I debated setting up a more sensitive waggler rig, but the novelty of simply being in with a chance of catching something on the lift method, won over. There will be none of this happeneing until next April, I thought, best enjoy it whilst I can. My mantra for the session. The next cast produced an unmissable bite, the float dragged under with such determined effort, that there was no way on earth I could fail to connect with it.  A lovely, fighting fit four pound tench, though it fought like twice its size.

A prize and a fiery sky

As is the case at this time of year, the evenings begin to draw in. A soon as the sun dropped behind the trees, the temperature was noticeably cooler. The clouds began to roll in too, always threatening rain but never quite delivering. They took on a most incredible colour as the sun began to set; orange fringes around shades of purple. It was fitting then that amidst this reflection another tench had just dislodged the shot, making the float rise like a beacon, a lighthouse out at sea amidst stormy skies. The tench this time was a little smaller and soon rested in the net. I poured a tea and took in the moment before bringing her to ground to unhook.

Farewell

This sleek, well proportioned tench of around three pounds, would more than likely be my last of the year. She was ready to go back now, into the sunset, both of the day and of the summer. I cast out once more, with little need to catch anything else, the rig in the water perhaps simply giving legitimacy to my being there. I sipped slowly at my tea and waited for the daylight to end. It wasn’t long before night took over.

Thanks for reading and until next time,

NorthwestFisherman

Ratchet (Entry 187)

With a warm westerly wind blowing, it was the east bank where I found the carp, some basking in the last shafts of evening sun, others beginning to root around on the bottom, disturbing gasses and clouding the water. A swim with overhanging trees either side of me, but at a great enough distance not to offer too much danger, seemed like the perfect place to begin. In went a palmful of sweetcorn just a rod length out. Even though it doesn’t work on this particular venue, apparently. Often, baits that don’t work on venues, don’t work because people hear they don’t work, so never try them. At least thats my theory.

I retreated behind one of the trees. I’d left my tackle there, well, I’d left my Avon rod and landing net, everything else was in my pocket. A few pieces of quill, some split shot and a packet of hooks. The makings of a classic setup; the lift method. Another palmful of sweetcorn went into the swim whilst I quickly set up the rig. Once complete I re-checked the only knot I’d tied, guesstimated the depth, fed another helping of sweetcorn and cast in. The pleasing plop of a swan shot breaking the surface is one I’ll never tire of. Especially when below the surface lurk hungry monsters. I tightened the line, cocking the float most pleasingly, and time began to tick by. The finches chattered. A buzzard circled above. The ratchet screamed into life. That didn’t take long. I hung on as a powerful carp surged out into the lake, muttering under my breath to the fish, to not come off. ‘Please don’t come off’.

I piled on the pressure. The rods forgiving action tested to its limit. Out in the lake the carp began to arch round, back towards my bank, hell bent on finding one of the overhanging trees. At this point I heard a tiny plop in the margins at my feet. Not enough to warrant more attention but too unusual to miss. I thought nothing of it and the fight continued. The carp had just about made it to the canopy of the tree. I couldn’t allow the fish an inch, and with a grimace and a prayer, managed to turn it, the carps tree-ward arch turning into full circle as it headed back out into open water. This time, though, its run was strangely silent. The ratchet did not scream. For a moment I though the line had been severed but looking down I noticed the ratchet was no longer there. That tiny plop I’d heard moments before. That was my ratchet falling off. And what a time to do it!

It wasn’t the end of the world though. It made playing the fish more tense but a whole lot quieter. Second by second, inch by inch, the carp came closer. The tree no longer seemed within its reach and soon it wallowed within netting range. I steadied my nerves and scooped up my prize. With the fish safely cradled I dropped the rod on the reeds. The centrepin spun. Line spilling off. An ever growing birds nest formed. But none of that mattered now. What a fish I had to admire. What a story. A worthy adversary on light tackle. In fact, this carp could now boast, when back amongst its lake mates, to being a bonafide tackle breaker. A centrepin crunching, ratchet wrecking, brute. In ten minutes the session had been made. In ten minutes the session had come to an end. A great fish had been caught on one of my favourite methods. And on a bait that doesn’t work.

A bonafide tackle breaking mirror carp

Thanks for reading and until next time,

NorthwestFisherman

Two bites at the tinca cherry (Entry 186)

The sun began its descent toward the horizon, a little earlier than a few weeks ago, and my swim begins to come alive. First a single bubble over the baited area. Single bubbles turn into patches. They moved inch by inch, giving a clue to where the fish making them, may be heading. It’s a tench no doubt. Nothing else creates bubbles like that. At any one time there could be two or three separate fish sending up plumes of bubbles, signalling quite clearly that they were here, and feeding. But can you catch me, dear angler? As of yet, the answer was no. I’d had no bites; the float only dipping once or twice as a fin glanced the line. Patience was needed. I was sure the bite would come.

Consolation tench

Some time passed before the float sank confidently and I struck into such a powerful fish. It bolted at terrific speed. A line of bubbles ascending from where it had furrowed into the silt. I could almost hear them fizz as they hit the surface. The fish did not stop. Even with the stout persuasion I was giving it. Its progress did come to an end; finding the overhanging branches and roots of a tree. Fish one. Angler nil. And believe it or not, and let me say at this point I’m still at a loss, the same thing happened a further four times. Two made for the tree, one the reeds and one made the lilies its sanctuary. With each loss I was sure ‘that was the last time I’d let that happen’ but evidently the fish had other thoughts. Eventually I did land a fish, two in fact, but much smaller than the ones that got away. With the light now all but gone and the delicate tip of my float hardly visible, I had to leave somewhat defeated, but still glad to have been rewarded with two immaculate green jewels. A return session was in order.

A promising start

A dawn start back in the same swim. This time my baited area was a little further away from the overhanging tree. Maybe it would afford my reflexes that bit more time to steer these ‘steam trains’ away from danger. Straight away I had bubbling and fizzing in the swim. It was alive, and it took just ten minutes for opportunity to turn to success, as the first tench of the day was hooked. I even steered it away from the snags and landed it. But this fish did not have the power of the ones I hooked and lost last time. Still, a fish on the bank is worth a swim full of bubbles. The next cast and produced another tench. I had to wait a little longer for this one but again, this fish was not in the same league as the ones from last time. I wonder what they were? They didn’t feel like carp. Certainly not all of them. The greatest draw of angling; the need to find out.

They're getting smaller

Over the next 90 minutes the fish became a little fussy and I missed numerous bites. A combination of finicky feeding and a backlit float made bite detection very hard. I did hook another smaller tench which turned out to be the last if the session. The swim turning utterly lifeless. Just as the sun began its ascent from the horizon. The tench would no doubt be heading for cover. You know, trees, reeds and lilies. There was no way I would be making the mistake of fishing near such things this time.

Thanks for reading and until next time,

NorthwestFisherman

Simple fishing for simple creatures (Entry 185)

This week I headed to a small lake hoping for a few tench and crucians. And, to be honest, anything that fancied making the sweetcorn I had with me part of it’s breakfast. This would be an unfussy trip out. Simple fishing with time taken to make sure everything is appreciated and noted. From the darting dragonflies I knew would be hunting around the pool to the delicate crucian bites preceding their jagged, powerful fight. I just had to hope that the early morning sun hadn’t put the fish off or sent them skulking under whatever cover they could find. Time would certainly tell, and even if this was the case, there would be plenty to entertain me.

Off the mark with a tench

In typical fashion the first fish of the day would be the smallest I’d catch. An immaculate little tench with eyes bigger than its belly. Two grains of corn proved just too tempting, the float disappearing with such velocity, I feared I’d hooked a carp. Thankfully it was an olive green bar of soap, which was quickly followed by another, bigger this time approaching a pound. A good start. No, a great start, considering how hot the sun. I was ever so grateful the fish were even feeding. However, after just thirty minutes, it was time for me to go back to the car and apply some sun cream. I didn’t much fancy ‘going tomato’.

Pick and mix?

In the interim the swim was rested. I returned smelling absolutely lovely (which is more than I can say most of the time), and settled back down to some fishing. A different species this time came my way. The unmistakable thumping of a hand sized crucian, fighting every inch of the way to the net, and still contorting its body whilst being unhooked. They certainly are little bruisers. But pretty little bruisers. Even in murky water, fins glow vibrant orange-red and flanks shimmer a rich, buttery gold.

Crucian imposter in the shape of a brown goldfish hybrid

For the next few hours the tench kept on biting, their domination thwarted every now and again by either a crucian or brown goldfish. Occasionally a rudd would show a liking for the sweetcorn. I can only imagine what a two pounder looks like in the flesh. These 6oz versions were pretty enough and made for something a little different. I really must try and find somewhere to fish for some bigger specimens soon before the winter is upon us.

The final catch ready to be released

I ended the day with a lovely mixed net of fish. The fish finally succumbed to the heat of the sun just after ten o’clock. The rudd drifted to the other end of the lake to bask, holding still as statues just below the surface, whilst the bubbling tench were finally filled. The swim became lifeless. Covered in tench slime and with the flask drained, I thought it time to leave, but not before I was treated to a sparrow hawk hovering in the adjacent field. On this occasion it seemed whatever had caught it’s attention had made best its escape and the sparrow hawk soon grew smaller as it flew silently towards to the horizon.

Thanks for reading and until next time,

NorthwestFisherman

More crucian than not (Entry 184)

Although all fishing trips are fun, or rather they should be, there are some that can be enjoyed just that bit more than others. For me its escaping the usual routine for a few hours, either early in the morning or after work, and with minimal tackle revisiting places fished in the past, when my shoes size was smaller than it is today. There’s something almost other worldly about such trips out. A mixture of nostalgia and re-discovery. Buried memories flung back into the present to live alongside the now.

Crucian or imposter?

My visit was to a small farm pond, where the margins were thick with broad leaved pondweed, and the rudd were easy to spot. I set up where the rushes were least thick and set my float so the small pellet I would be fishing would just touch the bottom. Ideally I would have loved some casters but this was an impromptu session so the ever available pellet won over. It didn’t take long for the delicate tip to confidently sank from sight and after a short scrap the first of the days fish was in the net. A little crucian. A dubious little crucian, having more than a whiff of brown goldfish about it, but for the sake of this story, this was a crucian.

No doubt about this one

It was just like I used to catch. Though I remember them being much bigger. Probably something to do with my hands being smaller then. Or maybe it was because at the time I had caught precious few ‘crucians’ and each one looked absolutely incredible. And boy can they fight! For little fish, not even threatening half a pound, they can strip line from a centrepin when hooked with such ease. The session wore on. The fish kept coming. When I caught ten crucians I placed a split shot in a spare container. Easier on my old brain than counting singularly like I used to. For a change a small perch made and appearance and then a small rudd before I hooked into something a little more feisty than the rest. A pristine brown goldfish. Confirming my suspicions that these little ‘crucians’ are not little crucians after all. Still, they are more crucian than not, and I was having a fine old time.

Part of the final catch

In all honesty the fishing was easy, a pinch of pellet every now and again kept the fish in a most obliging mood, the float never settled for more than a minute before it was pulled under. If anything time passed too quickly, but with four split shot in the container, along with a smattering of rudd, roach and perch, I was happy to call it a day as a storm began to rumble behind the trees. Time to make a hasty exit. More memories to gather dust in the corner of my brain. For another ten years or longer but there eady to surface when the time is right.

Thanks for reading and until next time,

NorthwestFisherman

Nearly bream revisited / Houdini the Tench (Entry 183)

I found myself heading back to the same venue as last week. Thoughts of bream once again my catalyst. This week, however, I would catch a bream. I had to. There could be no excuses. Unlike last time when conditions were far from ideal, this week the weather was perfect, a warm wind, overcast skies and I had made a dawn start. I had casters with me too and these bream love casters. Even the peg I wanted was available. Yes, I thought to myself, if I don’t catch a bream this time I seriously need to hang my head in shame.

Ideal bream fishing conditions

In went twenty feeders full of casters, pellets, and groundbait at about forty yards where the slow, sloping shelf just about meets the deepest water in the lake. Here any marginal weed is minimal and the bottom is largely firm. Usually to the breams liking. I gave the swim twenty minutes whilst I drank a tea and set up the rest of my tackle, all the while keeping my eyes on the area where occasionally, in between gusts of wind, I spied an odd patch of bubbles. This was looking promising. I made my first cast and sat back. Almost immediately; a line bite. Then another. Next the tip slowly pulled around and held. I lifted the rod into nothing. Madness! I didn’t even feel the fish. Still, next cast I would get one, just wait and see.

A tench posing as a bream

Except I didn’t. An hour passed with absolutely no more activity in the swim. Where had the liners gone? The bubbles? Very, very strange. I topped up the swim with a few more feeders full of casters. A change of hookbait from caster to sweetcorn was also decided upon. Then a near perfect cast saw the rig in prime position. Time to cross the fingers of my right hand which would leave my left for when I really needed it later on. This seemed to work, as a few minutes later the rod was nearly pulled in, certainly not by a bream, this had to be a tench. Indeed it was, doing a little gardening in the thick marginal weed, a few minutes later the fish, accompanied by about the same amount of weed, was safely in the net. A green present wrapped in green paper.

The first and biggest bream of the day

But still not a bream. I changed back to a caster hook bait where almost instantly I had another bite. On the other end of the line a slow, plodding weight. That beautiful slow, plodding weight of a bream. At last! Now to lead the fish in without too much pressure on the hook hold. As bream do, it behaved impeccably, swimming in a straight line from swim to net. It was a decent fish too. A 7lb’er in fact, and was the first of four fish, though the next three fish were all slightly smaller around the 6lb mark. The last fish I hooked was the same species as the first, though this one had much different ideas on how the fight would end, and this tench felt lager than the first. It kited to my left at a ridiculous speed, directly into a bed of lilies, and there it went solid. Completely locked up. There was nothing for it other than paying out some line, placing the rod down, and waiting. Now was the time to cross the fingers of my left hand. Minutes passed. The moment of truth came slowly round, rod in hand I reeled down, still there was weight, and a kick from the unseen fish. But miraculously it pulled through the lilies with the gentlest of force. What joy, another weedy green present safely netted, ready to be unwrapped.

This time however that green parcel was an empty one.

Thanks for reading,

NorthwestFisherman