A change is as good as a rest (Entry 6)

Im always thinking about my fishing. Probably too much at times but its something I do and there’s no getting away from that. Because of this I try to plan sessions sometimes weeks or months in advance. I am telling you this because in this blog update I had a break from crucian fishing, and went for a roving session on a little river that I hope to use as a back up river for this years grayling fishing, which I actually start earlier than most people. I believe mild autumn days off a really good chance of a big fish rather than the harsh and freezing conditions in winter. Im not saying you cant catch big grayling in these conditions by the way but its just something to keep in mind. Sometimes it pays to do things a little different.

As you can see from the above picture the river itself is a small intimate one and not particularly fast flowing which worries me a little as grayling love fast glides. The depth averaged two to three feet and there was plenty of marginal cover and overhanging trees. I walked to the most upstream point I could and dropped into nine swims over three hours on my way back to the car park. Fishing a 6 no.6 wire stem stick float off a centrepin I edged a single red maggot hookbait down any likely looking spots. It was simple fishing and I got a good idea of what the river has to offer.

The first swim produced a bite almost instantly and I knew straight away I had hooked a trout. It turned out to be the above rainbow and weighed roughly 1lb. After all the commotion I moved to the next swim and continued fishing. Feed a few maggots and get the rig to run down the swim, holding it back slightly to match the speed of the flow at the bottom which is always slower than it appears on the surface. This swim produced a few small perch of about 4oz. I didn’t expect to encounter perch and I dont know if they grow particularly big but it was a pleasant surprise.

The next few swims all produced fish and I took a total of five trout with some perch and small roach thrown in. As I have mentioned already I got a good feel for the river and I now understand that the grayling population is sparse but when they are caught are very big fish. I think the venue will fish better when carrying extra water and if nothing else will give me a chance for a better presentation. So if the Dane is not fishable I will be giving this pleasant little river a go come the autumn. And with views like the one below to look at who can blame me!

Until next time,

NorthwestFisherman

Location, location, location on small rivers (Entry 5)

When it comes to small rivers finding the fish is the most important thing there. Whether it be locating a shoal of dace, sussing out where the winter chub are holding up or in this case, crashing through the Himalayan balsam in order to squeeze into a likely looking barbel swim. Having fished the small River Dane for two seasons now for its barbel and chub, I’ve come to understand if the fish aren’t there you won’t catch them. Baiting and waiting could and does work, but with the fish being very nomadic, it’s hit and miss. Yes, it’s time to travel light to get bites.

Yesterday evening I turned up to one of my favourite stretches to put the above into practice. The swim above is the one that produced the fish. But I will say that I baited and fished eight swims in the two hours I was there. It’s hard work, up and down steep banks, getting stung by nettles and brambles, bitten by insects and for the most part the tip will be motionless, except for the odd tap from small chub. But don’t despair. If you’ve put your bait in the right swims, crept in and out of them quietly, rest assured, it won’t have gone unnoticed and any barbel in the vicinity are sure to be aware.

Rig wise I use a simple braid hooklength, its length varying depending on conditions, and tied to it a Drennan barbel specialist hook. The size of the hook is once again dictated by bait and conditions. A lead of one ounce is usually adequate to hold bottom and it’s semi fixed but fish safe. Something that I always do however regardless of the conditions is use olivettes to pin down the mainline. They’re heavy and sink the line fast. They also slide off the line should any breakage occur. Barbel do not like to brush against the line so I give my rig every opportunity to be out of the way of them.

On this session, it was a swim I’d never fished before that produced, and it was the only one that did. After quietly creeping into the swim and swinging the half ounce lead just on the fringe of the trees, again as quietly as possible, I let out a small bow of line and placed the rod in the rest. This peaceful scene was disturbed minutes later as the rod tip started shaking and a powerful fish was on.

The barbel above weighed 8lb 12oz and while nationally this might not be a massive fish for the Dane, where a double is rare, I was over the moon. Incidentally the icing on the cake happened on the next cast. Once a fish is caught from a swim I usually don’t have another cast and move on to the next swim, but it just felt as if the swim hadn’t been disturbed too much. I cast in as I had before. After ten minutes I felt a gentle vibration on the line. I always hold the rod and have the line hooked over my index finger just to feel more ‘connected’ to the end tackle. I struck and lifted into what was obviously a chub. After a tame battle in comparison to the barbel I landed my PB chub at 5lb12oz. I’m certainly hoping that it will be a six by winter. And who knows they may even go bigger.

Until next time,

NorthwestFisherman

A needle in a haystack, nearly (Entry 4)

Yesterday I returned to the venue holding big crucians for an early morning session. I had a plan in mind that was different from last time I fished it, and being only my second time on the venue and the fact that when I arrived the fish appeared to be breeding, I didn’t expect that it to be easy.

With a slight westerly wind blowing, I headed for a swim on the westward bank, which also happens to have slightly shallower water in the margins than the rest of the pit. Its still a good five feet deep and with some marginal cover to my right, in the form of an overhanging tree, I decided to fish just five sections of my pole. Yes, today I was going to use the pole in an effort to present the bait as delicately and accurately as possible. My bait choice had also changed for this trip and I had brought with me half a pint of freshly turned casters and some fishmeal groundbait.

Above is the 0.2g homemade pencil float I used. Rig wise I had a bulk of no.9 shot at a third of the depth and two no.10 shot spaced equally between the bulk and the hook. The hook itself was an 18 Kamasan B911 F1 and this was baited with two casters. Note in the picture how I use one dark caster and a lighter one. The darker one is used to counteract the weight of the hook as it will be more buoyant than lighter casters. A good tip there especially when fishing for big roach. The whole rig was fished two to three inches over depth with just 5mm of the tip visible. Bites would either be subtle lifts or positive sail-aways.

From the first put in after the initial baiting I had a string of bites all resulting in hand sized, but to my eyes, authentic looking crucians. Even at this size I was very happy to see them and it proved that there are plenty of them in here. And where there are smaller ones there must be bigger ones. Remember the goldfish and fantail I caught on my previous session? My appetite had been well and truly whet.

Unfortunately after landing upwards of thirty small crucians, none of which went any bigger than 12oz, I had a run of small common carp to 2lb. The weight behind the first strike made me think that they were bigger crucians, but the fast, powerful fight confirmed otherwise. I also lost a small ghost carp of a similar size that was beautifully marked and would have been a lovely looking fish for a picture. But thats how things go sometimes.

The bites became few and far between as the session came to a close but, just before I packed up however, I hooked into a fish that felt very crucian like in the way it fought. As it came up in the clear water, turned on its side to slow its ascent, it looked every bit a crucian close to 2lb. I nervously played the fish to the net and thankfully, without too much circumstance, it was mine.

As you can see it was a deep bodied fish with a blunt tail, no barbules, a convex dorsal fin but a scale count of 35. A crucian should be 32-34. So I shall be very honest and say on this occasion it probably had a little of another fish in it, a common carp more than likely. Incidentaly the fish weighed 1lb 14 oz.

I would have loved to stay longer incase that fish was one of a bigger shoal but I had to leave. Still I was very happy with the way the session panned out. I think the fish certainly got their heads down on the caster and groundbait combination and although not such a selective bait, when the bigger fish arrived they did muscle in on the action. If it is going to be a case of playing the numbers on this venue then this seems to be a good tactic. I shall certainly try this a few more times in the coming weeks.

Until next time,

NorthwestFisherman

Searching for a double figure tench (Entry 3)

Ever since I can remember the tench has been one of my favourite fish. When I was younger I used to read tales of anglers setting off to estate lakes on the magical 16th with hemp, worm and casters in the hope of catching them. Well a lot has changed since then, in terms of how people fish for tench and when, but once thing has remained, I still absolutely adore them and fishing for them.

With the joining of a new fishing club in January this year tench fishing has been at the forefront of my mind, one or two of the venues the club offers hold some truly huge tench, eight and nine pound fish being caught fairly frequently by people wanting to put some effort into their fishing. However, there has also been some tench caught of over ten pounds. To me that is something I just can’t ignore and I have decided to start to get to know one of these waters in the hope that I can up my personal best before the weather turns autumnal. Admittedly, I have probably already missed the best time for tench fishing, that being the spring, but whatever information and experiences I can glean this year will only go in my favour next. Anyway, on with the first session.

Arriving at 4:00pm I had a walk down the west bank to find that there was nobody on any of the pegs. There was four other anglers on the opposite bank, which on the day was the windward bank, but as it was a fairly cool north-westerly I decided to pick the swim featured in the photo above in the hope the fish would be on the back of the wind. I could also watch the other anglers for signs of fish on that bank and move accordingly if needed.

I fished a margin swim with a trusty lift method set up but stepped up a little due to quite thick weed beds. If I hooked any fish I wanted to give myself a chance to get them through the weed they would undoubtedly head for. I found an area two-thirds of the way down the shelf in about 10 feet of water that was fairly clear of weed. I baited here with hemp and 4mm pellets plus a few pieces of corn. My plan was to feed the corn little and often to create a scattered bed that would hopefully be visually attractive to passing tench but also get them moving round the swim looking for similar bait. The last thing I wanted was for them to become preoccupied with picking out the hemp as tench can sometimes do.

For four hours the only thing that seemed to be feeding in the margin was this cygnet. He was happily enjoying sifting through the weed and picking out any tasty naturals that he could find whilst his parent kept watch on the strange creature sat motionless on the bank a few metres from him.

I had my first take just after 8:30pm as the light levels started to dip and, as long as you counted ounces as the unit in question, this tench was certainly a double. But at 12 ounces was possibly one of the smallest in the venue. Still, I’d caught my target species, and the fish had obviously located my bait.

The next bite followed just a few minutes after and brought with it a run of bad luck (bad angling) that had me scratching my head in dismay. I hooked and lost five tench in the next hour, two of which felt very big, certainly bigger than any tench I had hooked previously. My personal best stands at 6lb 7oz. I was a little annoyed to say the least and another 1lb tench landed in almost total darkness did little to help lift my spirits.

But looking back on the session now I have some positives to take from it. My baiting approach worked, the fish obviously will feed in the margins late and so I assume early too, and I’ve confirmed to myself that there are some big fish in there. I shall certainly be planning a campaign come spring. But theres still time fo another visit or two in the coming weeks.

Until next time,

NorthwestFisherman

Big crucians are hard to find (Entry 2)

Back from an exploratory crucian session on a deep sand pit that I was fishing for the first time. The session itself proved to be very insightful, if a little disappointing, read on and let me explain.

As you can see from the picture above, I settled into a likely looking swim with depths in the margins of four foot and just a rod length out of nine foot. I decided to fish at the bottom of the shelf, not only is it a classic crucian haunt, but with the very clear water, I wanted to give the fish the greatest chance of feeling comfortable feeding there. It was an early start for me, arriving at the water just before dawn. I tried hard to ignore the tales I had been told of the ‘Grey Lady’ who is said to wander around the lake, well, the lake itself is situated on the site 400 year old Quaker burial ground. But, enough of that, back to the fishing!

I fished a simple lift method set up, a 13′ match rod and 5lb line as my mainline and a 6″ hooklength of 0.13mm Preston Power Line to a size 14 Korum S3 at the business end. I simply pinched an SSG shot above the hooklength and used a 5″ long peacock quill as the float. You’ll have to excuse the fact that I deleted the picture of the set up after I had uploaded the pictures to my computer, I’ll do better next time. Anyway, and hour into the session on a punched piece of meat fished over a few pellets, fed little and often, I had my first bite, and I struck into what felt, in the depths, a decent fish.

The fish above is what I landed and at 2lb 1oz is a lovely fish. The only disappointing factor from my point of view is the fact that it is obviously a brown goldfish or hybrid of some description. It will be very hard now for me to believe that the crucians in this water are true crucians especially as the very next put in resulted in a similar fish.

Again it was a beautiful looking fish but not a true crucian as I had been expecting. After this fish the swim did go very quiet, so much so that after a biteless two hours and with the sun getting higher in the sky, I decided to have a wander around the lake and see if I could spot any feeding fish in the shallower margins.

I did spot a lot of nice looking mirror, common and ghost carp on my wander around the lake, which is something to consider for a pleasure session or two, especially considering the fish seemed to be happily sifting the surface layers, taking to odd fly that had fallen out of the air. I did spot a few shoals of smaller, crucian looking fish but without catching them, I cannot say for sure they were true crucians and not just smaller versions of the two fish I caught earlier.

I will be back here during the course of the summer, it may just be a case of ploughing through the numbers in the hope of finding a needle in a haystack. Im sure if there are any true crucians in here however, that they have the perfect conditions to grow big and healthy. Here’s to a three pounder!

Until next time,

NorthwestFisherman

Using your loaf for carp (Entry 1)

With some heavy rain predicted for the afternoon I decided that todays session would be a quick morning one, starting early and finishing by mid morning. My chosen location, a tranquil estate lake about an acre in size. One of its inhabitants, the powerful carp, would be tackled using one of the best, if perhaps not the most fashionable of methods and baits. I’m talking of course about surface fishing with bread.

I arrived at the swim above at 5:30am and whilst setting up my avon rod with a suitable controller and hooklength, I began to trickle in thumbnail sized pieces of crust, feeding them to the right of the picture and allowing the gentle breeze to drift them slowly to the left. I have circled the area in the swim where fish eventually started to show. It didn’t take long and by the time I had set up my rig, the fish were feeding relatively confidently.

Second cast of the day resulted in the first take which I duly missed. It’s all part of floater fishing I guess, its certainly one of the most exciting forms of fishing, being able to see a fish approach and take your bait is great, but with this comes a unique frustration when things dont quite go to plan. A few more free offerings were fed and the fish soon started to feed confidently again.

The very next cast produced the first fish which is pictured above. It weighed 8lb bang on the nose but the fish in this lake sure know how to fight and on a light avon set up they are tremendously enjoyable.

Things obviously go a little quiet after all the commotion of a take so a little patience is needed. I usually hook up my rig, put the rod down, and pour out a cup of something warm. I then begin to feed the swim in the same manner as when I start the session with the only exception being I feed less pieces of crust. And I don’t rush, I’d much rather feed for 30 minutes and get the fish confident again, than risk casting too early and ultimately spooking the fish. This patience paid off once again as 30 minutes later I was landing my second carp, nearly identical to the first, a mirror at 8lb 3oz. I didn’t take a photo of this fish as it had clearly just spawned and looked a little worse for wear, as they often do at this time of year, so I quickly returned the fish and started my patient ritual, hook up rig, pour warm drink, feed the swim.

It was a little longer this time before the fish were confident enough for me to cast but in amongst the dark shapes of the mirror carp I could easily see a similar sized ghost carp happily feasting on the crusts I was supplying. By a stroke of luck this was the fish that ended up taking my bait and was a colourful change from the mirror carp. It also fought strongly as ghost carp often do. Why they fight harder, I do not know, but I really enjoy catching them. They are truly beautiful fish and even in fairly coloured water take on beautiful metallic hues. The fish turned out to be a little smaller than the others at 7lb 7oz.

This proved to be the final fish for this session as I made a quick exit as a storm blew in from the horizon and I didn’t want it to dampen an otherwise thoroughly enjoyable session. Carp everywhere love bread. Its cheap and convenient. And most importantly, if used correctly, can be devastating.

Until next time,

NorthwestFisherman