Canada, small rivers and just why the hell do we bother? (Entry 218)

Did you know that the UK is on the same latitude as some places in Canada? If it wasn’t for the gulf stream we would be literally up to our necks in the white stuff. Wow. Then we would truly be cold. And there’d be precious little chub fishing to look forward to. A frightening thought.

Even though I’m fully aware of this ‘other reality’, I can’t help thinking that we are having some really horrible weather conditions at the moment. Ones even less condusive for catching fish in. Cold, strong winds, unsettled weather patterns, and for the river angler, rain, rain, and more rain. Water levels up and down like the undergarments of a certain worldly type of person. It really is testing at the moment. Still, though, we must go out and try. Even though we know, with a strange kind of certainty, that our chance of catching will be slim to nil.

My plan this week was to head to one such small river and wander between swims. The cold water that ran in a few days before put pay to that, raising the rivers level, and making fishing there pretty much a no-go. So I didn’t go. I mean, I did go to the river, just to confirm my suspicions, that little nagging doubt of ‘what if’ spurring me on to at least take a look. There was no ‘what if’. The next day I headed to a stillwater, with half a pint of red maggots, and a few worms. I fished a simple waggler set up for anything that cared to come along. I’ve never seen a commercial water with such clarity. I could see the bottom for two thirds of the way across, and in the strong wind that circulated around the venue, it made for a very cold and bite-less few hours. No amount of layers were fully impervious to its biting nature. Oh, and the sleet came, and soaked everything. It was utterly grim.

When I was sat there, freezing my unmentionables off, I’m going to be honest; I really thought that I might get a bite in the end. Even though my brain was screaming at me to pay attention to it, and leave, I just couldn’t. There was this other voice you see, weaker and more distant, coming from somewhere else within, that made any ideas of an early dash for warmth simply not an option. The most annoying and eternal conflict rattling around inside any angler. One of logic versus hope.

I really can’t wait for the day that I am no longer able to hear that little voice anymore. Though, I have a feeling it wont be for a very long time yet, however. I suppose I’m glad about that. I think. Ask me next time I can barely move my fingers enough to pour a warm drink.

See you in two weeks,

NorthwestFisherman

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The perch fishing that never was (Entry 217)

The majority of this blog was written four months back now. For many reasons I never got to continue with what I had planned out so carefully. With my most recent set back of a lost (or stolen) car wheel, I couldn’t get out fishing last weekend, so I thought I would share the start of the adventure that never was. Back when summer was just about to break. Hey, it’s better than nothing.

Instead of my usual canal haunts, and yes I’m aware that last statement makes me sound quite the dubious character, this year I’m going by a different route on my way to (hopefully) catching some perch. One of stillwaters and managed fisheries. I’m determined to catch one. A big one. But, as we all know what plays out in the small time we are on the bank, can be very different from the daydreams that make up large parts of our day.

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I began by fishing a commercial stillwater, one that see’s a fair amount of match activity, and is rumoured to hold perch of silly sizes. They are not prolific in number but they are there. Apparently. I fished, float rod in hand, sleeper rod on rests, presenting prawns in three or four likely looking swims over the course of the day. From dawn until dusk I tried, and I caught plenty of fish, carp, F1’s and loads of barbel. It’s amazing just how crazy fish will go for a prawn, and when bites dried up, a lobworm presented over the marginal shelf picked up some extra carp. Not one perch came to the bank though. Not even fingerlings or palm sized examples. I am repellent to perch. 

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The next day saw me at a similar water, less commercial and more managed, with a distinct ‘natural’ feel. I fished as I had the previousday, and from the off I caught fish. Goldfish, small carp, a few late season tench, and even a pound plus rudd. All, again, on floatfished prawn. The ledger rod remained motionless all day. Not one perch came my way. No fingerlings or palm sized examples. Perch near enough detest me it seems. 

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I enjoyed catching plenty. I near enough filled my boots over those two days and there was always a chance my next strike would see lunging power feed back through the line as a big perch struggled for freedom. And I guess that happened each time I struck at a bite. They just all began and ended with everything but a striped and bristling adversary. I suppose there’s always next week.

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But as it turns out there wasn’t a next week, or the week after that, and so on. That is life, I guess. Encapsulated in a modest little fishing blog. There’s always going to be set backs, dead ends, and stolen car tyres but theres always something good on the horizon.

See you in two weeks, 

NorthwestFisherman     

New beginnings, sort of (Entry 216)

The night before, I gathered together the bait I needed for my dawn start, prawns defrosted from the freezer, lobworms barely moving from the garden, and the obligatory red maggots. Tackle was neatened, I re-tied my float rig, and prepared a few extra hooklengths whilst I sneaked a few mince pies into my belly. They might have been washed down with a strong beverage or two, though I can neither confirm nor deny this notion. It was as perfect a pre-fishing evening as you could imagine, and with Christmas day now over, I looked forward to a few trips out on river and pool. In search of chub and perch. I couldn’t wait to spend those precious hours alone, in quiet contemplation, or manic fish catching.

I awoke the next morning full of excitement, my first fishing trip for weeks, about to unfurl. Flask brewed, I decided to treat myself to a bacon bap en route, so with just the rods to load into the car, within minutes of waking up, I was on my way. Well, I should have been, except I wasn’t. I was stood on the road looking down in utter disbelief. As it turned out some kind hearted soul had decided to remove the front wheel from my car during the night, and with my spare being a ‘space saver’ (or a travel inhibitor), I could do little more than unpack the gear and sulk for the rest of the day, whilst I searched high and low for a replacement wheel.

Plenty of mince pies were consumed over the day, and on this occasion, I can attest to one or more strong beverages being consumed. Not least when I saw the price of a replacement. How rare can a wheel be? One breakers yard said in his eight years of business he’d never seen a car like the one I own in his yard. It’s not the DeLorean DMC-12 (with owner upgrades) or Herbie, honest.

In times like these, when travelling distances are out of the question, I would be straight on my local canal. However, over recent weeks a series of bridge works, or more accurately bridge and aqueduct works, has seen my four favourite stretches drained. Presumably the fish have been removed, as the inch or two of water that remained, certainly wouldn’t have harboured any fish for the time it took to complete the works. It’s hard to get your head around sometimes. A global conspiracy against my fishing? The Illuminati meddling in my maggot drowning? No, probably not, just lots of very inconvenient factors aligning at a heightened time.

This year has been a very tough one for me, on and off the bank, so to have it end on such a strange and pathetic note, well, I can’t help but feel it was more fitting than me actually getting out fishing. So it is in these final few lines that I welcome the new year in with open arms. Really widely flung out, open arms. Please make sure that this one is a better one than the last. One where precious little goes wrong. I’ve got my positive head on. Just give me a push in the right direction. I know you can do it!

Oh, and in true Lt. Columbo style, just one more thing; I only hope you can assist the courier company in being able to track my replacement wheel. It’s currently ‘on its way’ to me, though it was last seen in Watford. Five days ago.

Until next time,

NorthwestFisherman

A lesson from the past (Entry 215)

Last night I caught my first fish for three months. The longest hiatus from piscine escape that I have ever endured since first picking up a rod and reel. Apart from university, but there was plenty of beer consumed during that time, enough to make sure that particular period passed in a blur. I had taken myself to a delightful stretch of canal, just on the cusp of country, where the setting was one of open fields and stone cattle bridges more than huge stone slabs and towering mills. A glowing sun warmed the evening, though a brisk breeze reminded me still, that Summer had not yet fully sprung.

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In the hope of snaring a big, lady perch, I fished with lures, exploring various lock cuttings and bramble overhangs, with a variety of different patterns. Just for a few minutes mind, before heading off to the next equally inviting spot, a few casts closer to my goal. Or so I hoped. I couldn’t tell you how long I had been there. Put simply; I was totally immersed. The familiar whirr of the bail arm, as it re-coiled line, a soothing sound missing for so long. The brief whoosh of the rod as I cast, and the resonant plop of the lure hitting water, both punctuated and comforted. A haze of layered bird song formed the perfect foundation for my own aural additions and not once did a moorhens’ shrill shriek startle.

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When the lure was snatched, by some unseen monster, my eyes had never opened so wide. My whole body tensed. Smile, of course, unstoppable. As was the strike. A strike that had been there, nestled on the edge of a reflex, for a quarter of a year. Naturally, my heart beat faster as I reeled the fish in, a quick and powerful fighter it was too, but punching well above its weight. A perch, not much bigger than my hand, the perfect totem to welcome me back. The first fish of tens of thousands of people. Appreciated none the less because of this. It was perfect. In the late evening sun my perch’s subdued colours were made more radiant. What a proud looking fish they are.

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And there it was. Everything I had missed. Everything I had been reliving during my time away. A discarded rod atop a wet landing net. An actual living fish clutched in my hand. Everything, all at once, the focus of much admiration. And for the first time, in what seemed like an eternity, I was at ease. I was where I belong.

Until next time,

NorthwestFisherman

Just enough time for excuses (Entry 214)

Three hours fishing. In the morning, before most people would even be thinking of venturing out, I would have already been and be on my way back home. Stolen time. I started fishing in darkness, before the birds started their dawn chorus, using a pole float I had made for just such occasions. A small isotope makes a fantastic beacon for tentative bite indication but on this particular trip, the fish made me wait until the sun had rose, before making their appearance.

It seems like this is happening a lot at the moment. To me at least. Early starts are generally not rewarded until much later in the day, mid-morning being ‘early’, whilst sometimes the float doesn’t move until early afternoon. The weather is up and down, low pressure is in control, the winds are high and the rain is cool. This angler is looking for excuses and its almost too easy.

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I fished caster today, feeding little and often, hoping to excite and attract some late summer tench or crucians from an old estate lake. The first success came in the shape of a mint conditioned, and deep bodied, little common carp. Double caster proving just too much to try and ignore. He fought sedately and never threatened any snags. Quite a lazy little thing really. My second fish, just moments later, was a beautiful three pound tench, that in comparison to the carp, fought tremendously hard. This tinca found weed bed after weed bed before diving, eventually, into my net.

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Then the lake just switched off. The small fish stopped topping; the rafts of bubbles appearing in my swim dispersed and were not replaced. Even the birds, a moment ago in full swing, seemed to now muffle their morning song. It all began to feel a little eerie. The clear sky had filled up, lost to heavy clouds, laden with that thing that clouds are famous for carrying. And it poured down. Buckets of the stuff. Rain so heavy, that at one point, my little pole float could not keep its head above the waterline. For forty minutes there was little point in doing anything else than stop fishing and take it all in. The coolness that wrapped around me and raised goosebumps; the fine mist born from rain drops shattering into a thousand fragments as they hit lush undergrowth.

It was spectacular in its own way. Though whether it beat being cosy in bed is another thing. I am glad I experienced it nonetheless.

Thanks for reading and until next time,

NorthwestFisherman

Crucian comeback (Entry 213)

I couldn’t convince myself to look at the time; I did need to be away from the water by lunchtime though. I was sure the crucians would show up, I just needed to make sure I was still here when they did. The trip so far had been slow. The famous early morning routine of the crucian had failed to be observed. Maybe they were having a lie in? No such luck for an angler wanting to catch them. Don’t look at the time, don’t look at the time! Mid mantra the float stuttered. Apologetically, the fine bristle oh so slowly sank beneath the surface, millimetre by millimetre. It looks like you need your eyes testing, my crucian friend, that sweetcorn came with a side order of hook.

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As it turns out it would be me who needed the eye test. This fish was no crucian but a lovely conditioned tench. It fought far to powerfully for my liking. My light hooklength didn’t like it either and although I hoped the next put in would see me attached to a golden, wall of muscle, another two tench tested my mettle in successive put ins. Quite the ones to gatecrash the party. Bubbles erupted on the strike. Time after time they approached the net only to find hidden reserves of power and bully back down deep. With the swim suitably destroyed, I gave in to need, and looked at the time. It was much earlier than it felt. How often can you say that when fishing? In my experience time usually travels to quickly.

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Spirit recharged, I purposefully went about re-feeding the swim, drinking tea whilst the bait settled, and taking stock of the wonderful surroundings I found myself a part of. Dragonflies hurtled past me, their wings crackling as if statically charged, whilst on the lookout for a snack. The much more delicate Damselfly was also present, a few different species of them too, all needing to rest their oversized wings more often than the dragonfly. Or at least it seemed that way to me.

A loud swirl alerted me back to why I was here. The remnants of the display now fading into ever larger but fading circles. The epicentre of which was my swim. Those crucians had arrived, rolling and bubbling, franticly clearing up the banquet I’d laid just fifteen minutes earlier. I fumbled some bait onto the hook, I missed several bites to start with, but I finally managed to make contact with one. The first of a procession of crucians over the next hour.

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By the time I felt the need to reach into my pocket again, to take another look at the time, I had strung together 15 big crucians. All bar one were over two pound. Quite a brilliant hour of fishing. One hour. I couldn’t quite believe it. For the second time today I felt like I’d cheated time. Along with the three tench, and several peoples handfuls of small roach and rudd I caught at first light, I was just about done. What a great welcome back to the bank. All finishing just in time for my lunchtime getaway.

Thank you for reading and until next week,

NorthwestFisherman

Trout mask [no replica] (Entry 212)

I sat watching the float, remembering days gone by, all the while getting a feel for my new surroundings. I was on this reservoir in the hope of making contact with a tench though I questioned if this was going to happen at all. The wind hurtled from left to right, creating a strong undertow which pulled my float mercilessly from right to left. Feet of line and several small shot dragged on the bottom, anchoring the rig somewhat, but the fish didn’t seem to be in a feeding mood. I caught a lovely pound sized roach on the first cast that lulled me into a false sense of security, then a brown trout made an appearance on the next, a big one at over five pound. But neither my intended tench nor any shoals of roach settled over my offerings of caster. I went home a few hours later with just two fish to my name. I needed a re-match.

Two days later, and with much lighter winds forecast, I headed back to the reservoir. This time, instead of caster, I brought half a pint of red maggots. For comparison purposes I fished the same peg, plumbing up roughly four rod lengths out where the water was nine feet deep, and swiftly began to feed little and often. Today, minimal line was needed on the clean, sandy bottom to make steady the rig, just six inches or so sufficed. The waggler looked perfect, sat proud in the water, just past the marginal weed that at this early stage in the year, has not reached more than a foot or so in depth. I wondered if today I would set my eyes on one of its tench. I felt I was in the right place.

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The first two hours passed quickly and I caught five fish in that time. Unfortunately, each one of these fish were trout, and were the least trout-like fights I have ever had, battling strongly and controlled. They all convinced me I had hooked my target fish and I could scarcely believe it, when time after time, a trout made an appearance in the crystal clear water of the shallow margins. In a blur the last hour of light was soon upon me. The only downside to short Summer evening sessions. It was time to up the feed. By now the trout activity had all but stopped and I felt that precious few maggots would have made it to the bottom with these greedy swines in residence. Every thirty seconds I fed a generous pinch of maggots with the catapult. I crossed my fingers and hoped the trout would not notice. Fifteen minutes ticked by. No trout gatecrashed the party. On my fifth cast the float tip vanished at an alarming speed. I barely had to strike. The fish I hooked felt much bigger than any I had hooked so far and surged out into the open water at a rate of knots. These trout are steroid fuelled! Seriously fit fish. For four or five minutes the unseen fish stayed out in open water, twisting, turning, and shaking its head. Eventually, and with some stout pressure on my part, my opponent was coaxed to the margins. It was the strangest looking trout I’d ever seen.

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And so it was I landed my first tench from the reservoir. A long fish and one that looked much bigger in the net than the six pound that registered on the scales. It was an immaculate fish, as the trout had been, and all shared a liking for double red maggot. I was more than happy to end the day with a tench. A ‘six’ on the float. There’s not many better ways to spend a warm Summers evening. Or a warm Summers morning for that matter.

Thanks for reading,

NorthwestFisherman