Fries and mayo (Entry 173)

As I am in Belgium for New Year, the first post of 2016 is (I know its still 2015 but lets just pretend) a few days early and is something I don’t do that often; a look back at the past year. The triumphs and the failures. Fishing is a sport that gives, but it does have a habit of keeping you firmly grounded, as soon as you begin to build a little momentum. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Back to January we go.

Sunsets

There was plenty of evenings staring at rod tops at the start of the year, and with backdrops like the one above, it really was no hardship. I started to get to know a river much bigger than any I had ever fished up to that point. It’s fair to say it was a slow learning curve but I managed to catch fish, and was rewarded with some beautiful chub and my first barbel from the river, a week before the end of the river season. Just as the venue really began to take hold and get under my skin came those long three months apart. What is an angler meant to do?

A great goodbye gift

Fish for tench of course. But the spring was a long and cold one. For me, the tench turned up later than usual, and only the odd bream made an appearance in between. Better than blanking though. Eventually those tincas woke up. Beautiful green battlers. And then the weather got hot. Seriously hot. The fish spawned. Then they wallowed in the upper layers of lakes and ponds everywhere. It was more than a little frustrating. Though opportunity was still there. It just required a little thinking outside of the box.

Tinca time was a little late

Crucians came to the rescue. Big ones. Ones I never dreamt of catching. In fact, at one point, I remember becoming almost complacent on a day I only caught two or three. Just two or three specimen crucians was a bad day. Wow. They fed well either early in the morning or late in the evening, all the way through these stupidly hot conditions. and it was a brilliant experience. Only now am I really coming to terms with how good it was. For many different reasons.

Big crucians are very easy to look at for a long time

Through July and August I fished the river I’d left too soon a few months before, both for barbel, and trotting for roach and dace. I nearly caught my first double figure barbel – just one ounce short – had run ins with otters and witnessed some spectacular weather conditions. When I turned my attention to roach I caught many fish but a few big pound fish were the cherries on top. Old, wise river roach, requiring the bait to be presented just right. Not necessarily with fine tackle but certainly having to look natural to the conditions of the river on that day.

Old and rare fish

Then came the perch. Those frustrating perch. I was brought back down to earth with a bump after early success on the canal, and learnt that sometimes you have to accept that its just not your time, and fish on, for anything and in any way you chose. The harder you force the issue, the harder it gets, and the the winning line gets further away and much more blurred.

Perfect.

As the sun sets on another year so a fresh one begins. Another years worth of experience has been accrued. Venues seem more like friends than acquaintances.  I’m really looking forward to this year. I think it will be a good one. As long as there is time to spend on the bank; how could it not be?

Thanks for reading and until next time,

NorthwestFisherman

All I want for Christmas is tincas (Entry 172)

What a crazy winter we are having. I can count the number of frosty mornings so far on one hand. In fact, I could count them on the hand of one fingered man. I purged any thoughts of pursuing perch this week but I still fancied a challenge. What about a December tench? That sounds suitably silly. I set the alarm for a little before dawn, a lot later than a summers dawn raid after tench, and dreamt of olive flanked fighters.

Delicate float for today

I brought with me casters and worms, but due to the amount of tiny perch that are present, I would only be using worm on the hook. Chopping them up to feed in with the casters is usually the kiss of death. Unless you like catching tiny transparent perch one after the other. After plumbing up I fed a palmful of casters over a small area, and poured a cup of tea, drinking it slowly whilst the swim settled and watched the water. The surface was calm, the tall trees flanking the water protected it from the strong gusts that were already rattling through their canopy.

Kick off

After half an hour had passed, and with only a few tentative bites missed on caster, it was time to try half a worm. There must be something down there preventing the smaller fish from settling, I convinced myself, as I shipped out. The float had barely settled before it confidently sank from sight. On the strike, yards of elastic shot from the tip, and I was into a good fish. A powerful fish. Most definitely a tench. What a ridiculous situation. Grinning from ear to ear, I hung on as a confused tench bored hard, water boiling whenever it neared the surface. Patience saw me win the battle, with no snags in the area, it was a case of letting the elastic do its thing.

The rest of the morning passed quickly, a few small roach stole a worm almost as long as their body, and I waited for the onset of the afternoon. My friend, the hungry robin, went some way in reminding me it was indeed nearly Christmas yet here I sat, expectedly, waiting for a tench to bite. A little after two o’clock the float stuttered to life once more and another brutish fight began. This fish felt a little bigger than the first, though it did come in a little easier, something I was not complaining about. It was not long before a deep bodied tinca was diving into the safety of the landing net. A brace of December tench, a proverbial two fingers to perch everywhere, who needs you to have fun. Nerve jangling, heart racing fun.

A brace of December tench

And it didn’t stop at tench. The last bite of the day saw me into a very heavy fish, for minutes I did not see the culprit, it was super quick in bursts and then turned to a dead weight, hanging in the deep. After ten minutes the fish neared the margin, more out of its own will, than any pressure on my part. There, just meters from my feet, rose a huge pike. Well into double figures, worm hanging from its top lip, hooked fair and square. That’s the last I saw of the fish, seconds later it spectacularly powered away, and didn’t stop. Amazingly the line did not snap, the hook simply pulled, as the elastic bottomed out.

Enough excitement for one day, I thought, time for home.

Thanks for reading,

NorthwestFisherman

Roll on Christmas (Entry 171)

I don’t utter that statement too often, I can tell you, but after another weekend of fish-less action I can’t wait for the new year and a change in what to angle for. I have to be honest, I’ve been well and truly beaten by these perch, and a few weeks of getting back to some familiar territory definitely seems the way forward.

As I sat there in the drizzle, staring at the most defiant float ever to have been put on an anglers line, I became all to aware that eve after all these blanks and tough sessions; here I was. I still wanted to fish. Regardless of the outcome. I kind of knew that my float would only move today when I moved it, but whilst there is a bait in the water, there is always the chance to be proven wrong.

I’d arrived eager, walking the muddied and saturated bank, in search of the perfect perch swim. I walked further than most would. I didn’t find ‘perfect’ but I found on that was damn close. Carefully the swim was plumbed and hidden features revealed. I fed carefully and presented baits accordingly. One bait fished static, the other moving, hopefully edging ever closer to a hungry perch.

To pass the time I fed the robins. I fed the ducks. I decided to join them and polished off a sandwich. Still the rain pattered. I passed polite conversation with the other canal residents and shared my experiences with another keen angler, ready to start their own adventure, on this particular canal. Their enthusiasm was sky high, it wasn’t any more or any less than my own, just different somehow.

My heart went into overdrive sometime during the afternoon. A few taps on the tip, matured into a slow and definite pull round, though the culprit was not my intended quarry. It was either Ronnie or Reggie, and in any case, it dropped off as it was swung to hand. Much to my relief. For that moment though, that brilliant moment, where my own world began to blend in with the one below the ripples; I had escaped.

Yes, it is hard when things don’t play themselves out as they do in your mind, but when I feel the need to start to moan and groan, I try catch myself before doing so. This is a hobby. It’s all a little fun. If you start to take it too serious then all of the joy will inevitably be sucked out. There’s plenty of other venues to go and species to try to catch. Plenty of opportunity to simply fish.

Until next time,

NorthwestFisherman

One thing after the other (Entry 170)

I’ll keep this one brief. Theres two reasons for this. The first being to keep you all from falling asleep as you read. It’s fair to say it wasn’t the most thrilling of weekends. Like test match cricket when the run rate is barely above one. An hour. The second reason is because although I did manage to catch a few fish, on a second shorter session, I had an unfortunate incident with my camera. To say the back end of this year has been unlucky for me, both on the bank and off it, would be an understatement.

First up, those pesky perch. The canal fished very hard again this week. The wind still gusted, making fishing with light lures really hard, especially for someone as inexperienced as me. I had one very timid take that I connected with all too briefly, the fish didn’t feel that big to be honest, but I would have liked to bank it. It would have saved the blank that eventually played itself out and would have at least been a picture of a fish; something thats becoming all too absent from these pages.

Still, I thought as I drove home down winding roads, I should be able to wangle a few chub from the river tomorrow. A few hours presenting a lobworm into likely looking spots should see a chevin or two unable to resist. On the day the river was fining down, a little up on its usually level, and carrying a tinge of colour. It certainly looked good for a bite. Off I went to the first swim and presented the bait perilously close to a tangle of trailing branches. Two minutes later, the tell tale tapping of a inquisitive chub saw my strike meet with muscle, and a two pounder was quickly landed. A great start!

A fish at last!I got a photo too. It looks good doesn’t it? A blog with a fish picture! And more chub followed. In fact over the next two hours I caught five, of better size than the first, and all from different swims. So where are the pictures, I hear you say? Well, my lens decided to stop ‘communicating’ with my camera body. It wouldn’t focus, and even more importantly, would not allow the camera to release the shutter. Just my luck.

But I had caught some fish, whether you choose to believe me or not, and I certainly appreciated the tonic. I can still catch fish. Just not perch. Time to trawl eBay for a replacement lens or I’ll have to start presenting these updates with artist impressions and rubbish sketches.

Until next time,

NorthwestFisherman

Broken biscuits (Entry 169)

Thank heaven for small mercies. I was able to get out fishing this week. Just about. Work on Saturday, and then stupidly strong wind and rain forecast for the Sunday, left the window of opportunity one fit only for a madman. Fortune favours the bold. Rewards only come to those who put in the effort. But a warm bed really is a terrible thing to leave when the wind howls and the chance of catching is quite slim.

With the rivers rising, the canal was my go to venue, though I had no chance to get any bait on Saturday. A session fishing with lures for perch or any other fish that fancied turning predatory momentarily. I decided that I would start positive and fish a fair sized shad on a jig head, give any fish willing to move something worth moving for, or something like that. The first section of the canal was sheltered from any wind, though it was only a short length, so after just twenty minutes it was time to head off further down the canal. Onward to fish, hopefully. Onward and into the gale, most certainly.

First casts

The canal was uncharacteristically quiet. No walkers, no barges, and very little birdlife. A robin or two making an appearance when the wind eased slightly. I felt truly isolated, especially after walking for twenty minutes down the towpath, through wooded sections and open ones. In the middle of nowhere, and as yet, nothing to show for the effort. Having said that the day passed quickly. I sheltered from a few rain showers under bridges, agitating tiny lure inches from the bank, hoping for a juvenile perch or even a ruffe. I vertically jigged in lock cuttings and ran a shallow diving plugs past the dying reed stems that fringed equally shallow turning bays. The likelihood of catching grew slimmer. The wind became ferocious. A day to experience nature at its most violent.

Anywhere there is features

As I made my way back to the car, giving any likely spots one or two casts, a bite materialised. An aggressive take, that saw the rod arc into healthy bend, and the clutch slip a little. A heavy fish plodded though it did not threaten to run. It kicked and jagged, then rolled, a deep flank fading briefly into view. Pale yellow broken up by darker lines. The mother of all perch was taunting me. I panicked. I started to play the fish wth a lighter touch. I eased back the on clutch. I looked to my side for the net. Everything I shouldn’t have done. The hook and the fish parted company. The braid hung limp. I wished I’d not hooked it at all.

The winning plug

There I stood, alone, bitterly disappointed. Buffeted by the gusts. Dejected. I really could have done with landing that fish. Over the past few weeks I have put a lot of effort into tracking one of these fish down. To lose one, so so near to being banked, was a very cruel blow. Especially as I had seen the fish. It was a not an unseen loss. Those ones that could be one of a number of species. This was taking the last biscuit from the box only to drop it on the floor. Then stand on it as you tried to pick it up. And a dog dash in and eat the broken fragments. Actually it was worse than that but far less surreal.

I had no one else to blame but myself. Bad angling, bad playing of a fish, and a lack concentration just when it was an absolutely necessity. Time to head home to lick my wounds and to try and muster the strength to get back on the canal at the very next opportunity.

Until next time,

NorthwestFisherman