I caught a paradox (Entry 143)

The lake looked perfect. It’s delicate weed reached out to touch the surface. A few more days would see it do so. In the space between, carp cruised, breaking the glassiness only with their tails. I hoped the tench were hidden from view. The swim I would have liked to fish from was occupied already. I could see a figure slumped awkwardly in their chair. I thought I’d have a wander around and see how they were fairing. Making my way through the undergrowth, through knee high thistles and even higher hogweed, my head was drawn up only when I passed a clear spot and possible peg. Each looked as inviting as the previous. As I approached the person, an old man, it became apparent that he was having the session of his dreams. Quite literally. His rod, at rest by his side, and its rig laying redundant in the margin. His gentle snore kept metronomic time and in the dappled sun he looked too comfortable to disturb. If the fish were driving this fellow angler to sleep then I thought it best to head to a different venue altogether. Give the tench and bream a rest. Instead, I went in search of gold.

A good omen

Ever since I caught my first stunted crucian, from a small farm pond fishing up tight to an overhanging Hawthorn, I have always associated them with the species. What better way then, to be greeted onto the pit, than by a dotting of Hawthorns in bloom. A good omen if ever there was one. I had never fished the venue before and I needed all the help I could get. This wasn’t the classic crucian fishers dawn or balmy, overcast evening. It was the middle of a warm and bright day. I hoped to tempt a bite in spite of this and went about lapping the lake. Twice actually. I chose a swim with plenty of nearside features. It’s overhangs creating little oasis’ of shade. Bait had to be what I had brought with me in readiness for tench. In this case a mix of small pellets and sweetcorn. Not too bad then.

Todays baits selection

As expected the fishing was slow. On the heavily undulating margin I had found a small area that was more uniform than the rest. It was here I baited. Then waited. For the float to give away a crucians presence. A stutter or tiny dip or those concentric circles, the ones whose sign is the only giveaway that underwater, a masterful crucian has stripped your hook of its bait. Delicate presentation is a must. For this reason I pole fished, using a small float, fine line and tiny hook. Every so often I repositioned the bait in the hope its fluttering through the clear water would attract any nearby crucians to the feast. After around two hours, and quite without warning, the float vanished. A confident take. Yards of elastic peeled from the pole tip as a fish, that was quite obviously not a crucian, surged down into the deeper water beyond. In a heartbeat the rig catapulted back through the water, hitting the top section of my pole with a sharp rattle. So ended that little piece of drama. It wasn’t a crucian though so the disappointment was tempered slightly.

Late afternoon soon snook up on me. Apart from a few palm sized roach I’d had little in the way of action. Not many fish had shown themselves out in open water and the ones that had were rudd, snatching at surface trapped flies with alarming aggression. Less aggressive was the fish that began to nibble my hookbait not too long later. A series of tiny shivers later, the float barely broke the surface. Hardly anything but I had to strike. If only to prove to myself that I wasn’t seeing things. When my strike met with solidity and a thumping lunge, I had confirmation. A crucian at last. The fish skimmed through the water, as if friction had ceased to exist, before halting and thumping once more, diving downward over the marginal shelf.

Two pound crucianIn typical crucian style, the fish tried this manoeuvre a few times before finally surfacing, and with a gulp of air, simply stopped fighting. All thats was left to do was draw this block of buttery yellow over the landing net. It looked a sure two pounder. Crucians are a stunning fish with a hardy quality that belies their beauty. Able to withstand low oxygen levels, moderate pollution and even the acidification of water. A real survivor. Yet in the next breathe in real danger of disappearing completely due to hybridisation and environmental changes. A cruel paradox. What a shame if this fish was to vanish. Future generations of anglers unable to appreciate both their fighting ability, delicately frustrating feeding habits and deep golden flanks. The species now a distant detail of an anglers tall story.

My prize for the day

To catch any crucian on the float is a reward in my opinion so I was more than happy with my tally of just one. I did have a consolation tench just as the sun started to sink. A tremendous fight on light tackle but not the crucian I so hoped to cross paths with. Next time I set out to fish for them will be early in the morning. I’ll feel like I stand a much better chance then. When the mist rolls and the dawn chorus begins, the crucians natural caution might disappear, followed soon after, by my float.

A bonus tench on light tackle

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Never a solitary pursuit (Entry 142)

With the first tench of the year now under my belt, the next session started on much more of a level playing field. No longer was it they that had the upper hand. Best not to dwell on that last statement though. Ones like that have a habit of coming back to haunt you. I felt confident that the tench in the lake had woken up and had begun to feed. In preparation for a more significant rise in water temperature that would, undoubtedly, see them start to think about creating the lakes future generation. They definitely wouldn’t be interested in my hook bait then. I made my way, as I have done in previous weeks, to the bank of the lake that bathes in sun for the longest amount of time. Here the water is a touch shallower and the weed growth more prolific. I hoped that the tench would be drawn here in readiness for these future events.

On my first cast, to my utter disbelieft, I witnessed the float sliding from view. You guessed it, not a tench, but another bream. A fairly small one for the venue but always good to get the first fish of the session into the net. The yellow peril proving too tempting to ignore as he swam past, on the look out for some female bream to chase. I catapulted a few pouchfuls of catsers and a few grains of corn into the swim and sat back. I expected there to be a fairly long wait before the next fish. The sun was already high and the temperature was very pleasant. Given the clarity of the water I knew I would have to wait for the sun to be sinking rather than climbing. The fish in this water do not feed with any positivity in bright conditions. Apart from the odd rogue bream of course!

An early bream

Even so it is one of my favourite places to fish. Set amongst dense woodland, there is such a calm, still atmosphere. Patches of wild flowers carpet the ground. The wildlife is plentiful and diverse. Shrews keep me entertained during quieter spells and there is always the slim chance of witnessing badgers venturing out for the evenings foraging if you stay until darkness. A chorus of frogs croaked from the undergrowth that hid both them and the brook behind me. I felt privileged just to be a part of the scene. Apart from the odd family walking the dog amongst the tall trees, or an eager photographer snapping frantically in an attempt to capture one of the elusive woodpeckers in action, I can sit for hours. Time slipping slowly by. It’s the perfect escape. A solitary pursuit, maybe, but certainly not a lonely one.

All hell broke lose late afternoon when a particularly feisty tench eventually picked up my corn hookbait. The fish ran to the left. Then to the right. The line plinking off unseen weed stems. The swim became a battlefield of floating weed casualties in a matter of seconds. The clutch sang out as time after time the fish bolted away from the margins when it got a little too close for comfort. Eventually the tench tired and was swept into the net. Five pound of tinca and the same of vegetation. Real tench fishing.

Backlit by a sinking sun

A beautiful, deeply coloured fish. An ounce over five pound. It wouldn’t have been any less appreciated if it was an ounce under. Sometimes the method and the setting really do make the capture. Not the size of the fish. It does help when they are a picture perfect example of the species of course. After the picture, I walked to the next swim and rested her. It took a few minutes for her to start kicking, ready for freedom. Upon lowering the net, she casually flicked her tail and dissappeared under the weed, leaving nothing but an oily swirl on the surface.

A scrapping male tench

The last fish of the session came just a few casts later in the form of a small male tench. He had certainly seen a few summers judging by his dishevelled appearance. The fight was typical of a male tench too, ferociously charging in every direction, and sending thunderous thumps down the rod blank. A defiant message for any angler. It may well have took me twice as long to net a fish half as big as the last one. They are spirited creatures. With the fish returned the sun sank all too quickly and without any further bites in that time, I reluctantly had to make a retreat. A most enjoyable session in pursuit of springs most welcomed fish.

Thanks for reading this update. You might like to head over to my Facebook page. Once there if you ‘like’ the page, you will get all the blog, twitter and Facebook updates in one place! You can click the link at the end or hit like to the top right of the home page. Don’t forget to share this with anyone you know might appreciate it using the social media buttons below.

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The magic number (Entry 141)

The spring that fed in at one end of the lake had coloured up the water significantly in the few days I’d been absent. The excess water ran swiftly over the sluice at the other. It certainly seemed to have stirred things up a bit. In the time I had been here I’d seen a few bream roll and even a patch or two of tench bubbles. So when the float showed it’s first sign of movement it was almost as if it had to do so. The days story somehow already written. All I needed to do was go with the flow. The float bobbed nervously before sinking slowly, allowing me plenty of warning to time the strike. The rod curved into shape. A plodding, lumbering weight signalled I was almost certainly into a bream. Upon netting the fish I realised it was a fish I had definitely met before. A blind, scrawny fish and one that would win no prizes in a beauty contest. An old warrior, if you will, and I was most pleased to know it still graced the lake. Alive and ‘well’.

A bream full of characterIt’s probably the smallest bream here with most being upward of 5lb and it certainly wasn’t the tench I was after. I still treated with respect though and made sure it was unhooked, rested and returned with minimum fuss. Many people scoff at bream but when the tench are not biting, I will happily catch them. Time to feed the swim with a little more bait. Who knows how much had just been mopped up by that hungry mouth. Above me the blue sky began to overtake the grey. A lot quicker than I anticipated and I hoped the bright conditions forecast would hold off for an hour or two yet.

Overgrown and inviting

Over the next half an hour the rig was recast several times. I was using sweetcorn and casters as bait, fishing the former as hookbait. On this occasion as the rig settled there was a sizeable line bite. Dragging the float downward but not under. I’d left plenty of the tip visible for just this reason. Otherwise its hard not to strike at them. A case of sitting on your hands and making sure. After several similar indications the float once more slid away confidently. Another lumbering fight ensued only this time the weight felt much greater. I took my time, guiding the fish through the swim and towards the waiting landing net. A long and broad bream surfaced in front of me. Pin point netting was needed as the fish only just fit into the frame. I was sure this bream was the biggest I have ever caught from the venue.

A new venue PB breamAnd so it turned out to be, at a few ounces over eight pound. I was chuffed to bits. Time for a few very quick pictures before slipping her back in the next swim. Then for a cup of tea after once more topping up the swim with some freebies. As I waited for the tea to cool, I had a wander. The abundance of life in the marginal weed went some way to demonstrate how much natural food there is in the lake. Pond skaters, water boatmen, tadpoles and more water snails than you could shake a stick at. Such is the rich larder at the fish’s disposal, I am surprised they can be tempted at all with paltry offerings of sweetcorn and week old casters. I’m very glad they do occasionally fancy a change.

A water snail

Over the next few hours the day grew into a beautiful sun filled one. The temperature rose. The sky became a deep blue canvas for an occasional white fleck to pass over. It did little to help my cause but that wasn’t such a problem. I just had to just go with the flow, I remembered. I took off my hoodie and resigned myself to catching nothing more than a few rays. Of course, I fished on, still with an optimism that had no right to even exist. What is it that drives fisherman to sit it out when all past experience says ‘go home’? Sp when the float sank from view, quite literally out of the the blue, I had to make sure I wasn’t imagining it. The curve in the rod confirmed reality. This was certainly a fish. A powerful one too. Those bullish yet smooth runs that could only belong to one species. The one I had been setting out to catch, yet so far this season, had failed miserably in doing so.

The first tench of the season

Once the fish was in the net and unhooked I took a few moments to appreciate how wonderful tench are. Solid yet sleek. Tastefully vibrant. That little red jewel of an eye. Their absence certainly makes my heart grown fonder. It was time for her to return home and indeed for me to do the same. I certainly didn’t push my luck. No amount of last casts would have made the session any more complete. An old friend, a new venue personal best and the first tench of the year. Three is the magic number.

Thanks for reading this update. You might like to head over to my Facebook page. Once there if you ‘like’ the page, you will get all the blog, twitter and Facebook updates in one place! You can click the link at the end or hit like to the top right of the home page. Don’t forget to share this with anyone you know might appreciate it using the social media buttons below.

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Time and clues (Entry 140)

The swim had been plumbed and fed with a few small pellets and grains of sweetcorn. I’d brought some worms with me too, for the hook, should I need a change of bait. I was confident that today I was in with a real chance of catching my first tench of the year. The day was a mild one, though the rain kept threatening to fall and at times, did so. Altough sheltered from the chilly wind by the tall trees surrounding the water, I still made sure I was fishing on the back of it. Whilst setting up I had seen a good fish roll. Quite what it was I was unsure having only seen it peripherally. In all honesty I would say that it was more of carp than tench. Still, fish were moving and active, and as I went about making the first cast my spirit was high. A little past nine o’clock.

Visual signs its tench time

It got me thinking. We humans are ruled by time. A constructed idea of time that is. One of clocks and calendars. Seconds ticking by. The natural world doesn’t live by those constructs of course. Plants, for example, are brought out of their dormant state by increased light values and temperatures. So too are other animals, including fish. The plant in the picture above (which I’m reliably informed is called Bugle) always seems to coincide with the tench waking up on this venue. A week or so ago they were still curled up inside green shoots and the tench were nowhere to be found. Now the Bugle is staring to take on its vibrant purple colour those sleepy tench may just be rubbing the sleep from their eyes. Its interesting to think that these visual clues and patterns are all around us. Ones specific to the water you are fishing on. It’s just a case of spotting them and joining the dots. Of course, it all might be purely a coincidence, but if its something that brings that extra bit of confidence, then why not take note.

Todays swimI’d settled into a feature filled area of the lake. With overhanging trees, reed stems and fine strands of weed dotted about the lake bottom, it seemed a perfect habitat to find a lethargic tench spending some time leisurely searching for breakfast. After half an hour of fishing I had a tentative dip of the float tip. A line bite. No doubt caused by Mr Tinca brushing the line with one of his fins. And again, a definite downward movement of the float, only this time it broke the surface and sank from sight. I struck and briefly connected with a substantial fish. I say briefly as all to quickly the hook pulled and I became unattached. I wasn’t best pleased. A trail of bubbles traced the direction the fish had bolted away in. I had more than likely just lost a tench. Or maybe it was that carp I’d seen? Expletives may have been uttered as I reached for the flask.

A conciliation bream

Over the next two hours I drank a fair few cups of tea. All the while trickling in pellets and sweetcorn on a little and often basis. A jay flew back and forth on numerous occasions. They are a lovely coloured bird and I can’t recall ever seeing one so close up. The ever elusive woodpecker could be heard from somewhere in the dense forrest and a robin came to visit hoping for a few worm offerings. The only offering sent my way came from the clouds before a slow and deliberate bite materialised late in the afternoon. Just as the rain began to increase in its intensity. It didn’t have the surging power of a tench and this time I remained in contact with the fish. A bream was the lakes consolation prize to me. A chunky and pale fish. Full of spawning tubercles. A most welcome fish in any case. The bream in this water have a habit of turning up anywhere, sometimes just feet from the bank, and seem totally unaware that they’re supposed to stay in the larger expanses of water. Still, who are we to write the rules on what fish can and can’t do. They just ‘do what they do’.

A solid and pale bream

The bream was to be my only fish of the day. In fact it was the last bite of the session too. I was by now well and truly soaked by the heavy rain but it had not managed to dampen my spirit. As I slowly emerged back out from the engrossing world I had been immersed in for several hours, and began to pack away, a tench rolled in the next swim. The equivalent of a tench raising two fingers at me. Perhaps. I like to think it was more more of an invite to try again, next week.

Thanks for reading this update. You might like to head over to my Facebook page. Once there if you ‘like’ the page, you will get all the blog, twitter and Facebook updates in one place! You can click the link at the end or hit like to the top right of the home page. Don’t forget to share this with anyone you know might appreciate it using the social media buttons below.

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Until next time,


Counting on carp (Entry 139)

In between the tench blanks, it’s carp that have been my saving grace. In what little sun we have had its carp that have been encouraged to have a mooch around. In the upper layers, on the surface or in the shallower margins. From small ponds to deep pits you can count on them. And when you can see them it’s exciting fishing. When windows of opportunity are in short supply, wandering around with minimal tackle and trying to spot fish takes some beating. Its simple, yes, but that doesn’t make it easy. Especially when you are as heavy footed as I am. I sure could do with some anti-gravity boots…

One night in the week after work, I headed to a venue I have fished many times before. One of clear water, deep margins and obliging feeders. The fish present are not huge but I really have learnt a lot from fishing for them. Seeing how small groups of fish feed in crystal clear water is invaluable. Especially for the times when you can’t see them and wonder just what is going on in your swim. I arrived to find the place empty, which was not really a surprise, given the moodiness of the water early on in the year. Into three lovely looking areas, ones with plenty of cover and a fairly clean bottom, I fed a few palmfuls of pellets along with a few chunks of bread. I really like how visual the bread is, both to the fish and to myself. It’s buoyant too, taking only the tiniest of slurps, to make it fly at a rate of knots into a fishes mouth. Or so I hoped. I’d been here getting on for an hour and of the fish I had seen no sign. Not in the swims or even out in open water.

Attractive morsels

It had been a dull day, a little chilly on the whole, and I wondered if I was pushing my luck a little. Maybe the fish were just not in a feeding mood. I kept at it though, patrolling from swim to swim until eventually, I caught sight of what I was looking for. A few dark shapes cautiously approaching a baited area. Three common carp and a dark, metallic ghostie. They did a fly by, swimming straight over the bait and back down into the deeper water, vanishing from view with an unnerving ease. I set my unhooking mat down and made myself comfortable. A few minutes went by before the same group of fish came back to the area. This time the three common carp began to pick off the chunks of bread whilst the ghostie watched on from a way back. I’m sure they could smell the pellets but they seemed interested only in the bread. Once gone they dropped back into the depths. Time to re-feed the swim. I really do enjoy this part of the procedure. The way a nervous fish can be transformed by simply feeding, and with no apparent danger nearby, their confidence can be quickly won.

The next time the fish entered the swim, again the commons fed with gusto. The ghostie however continued to watch. They are super cautious fish it would seem. I wonder why this is the case? Still, with the shoals departure soon after, it was time to introduce the hookbait. You guessed it, a large, fluffy chunk of bread. It took an age to sink and settle. The fish took a little longer to come back this time too, but when they did, it was the ghostie that homed straight in on my hookbait. Incredible! Almost out of body, I watched myself watching it. With a waft of its pectoral fins, it came to a halt. The angler poised. It’s mouth extended out, creating a vacuum, and the hookbait had no choice but to do what physics dictated. The angler had no choice but to do what instinct dictated and strike. Into nothingness. A bemused angler and an equally bemused ghostie. With a casual air the fish abled out of the swim. A slack jawed angler look on in dismay. The chance had gone. For the common carp too. Time to re-compose and start again.

Perfect common carpJust fifteen minutes later, and now in a different swim, I was rewarded with a fish. A perfect little common carp sporting exceptionally lovely colours. A second chance served up and taken. Freelined bread over a few free offerings. In the clear water it is always a joy to see the fish swim strongly back to their home. Almost as much as it is to see them make their first mistake; a little too much curiosity for those fluffy white morsels laying temptingly on the marginal shelf. Next time, that ghostie will be mine.

Back homeThanks for reading this update. You might like to head over to my Facebook page. Once there if you ‘like’ the page, you will get all the blog, twitter and Facebook updates in one place! You can click the link at the end or hit like to the top right of the home page. Don’t forget to share this with anyone you know might appreciate it using the social media buttons below.

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Until next time,