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

Ide give my bottom dollar (Entry 210)

I found something to work with after half an hour. I didn’t see it, rather, I heard it. A fish striking the surface with aggressive attitude. Something along the lines of a chub eagerly gulping lumps of crust floating down a river. It was out in the open water where I glimpsed the fading ripples of whatever fish had struck the surface. I gathered my tackle and walked to the nearest peg, a peg right in the teeth of the cold easterly wind that hurtled across the venue, making the air temperature feel a few degrees colder than it actually was. Having fished the peg before, I knew it was roughly two feet deep, and it was at this depth to which I set my rig. I gave the swim fifteen minutes of free feed, casters today, before giving in and allowing myself the first cast. So in total; forty five minutes of preparation. All worthwhile when your float flies under on the first cast within seconds of it hitting the water.

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Even better when it’s your target fish that takes the hookbait. A good sized fish too, and for an ide it fought really well, like a big bream being lead in from fifty yards range, it couldn’t be rushed. As soon as the fish was in the net two more pouches of casters were fired out into the swim whilst I dealt with the fish. Something to regroup any spooked fish still out there. On the next cast, I missed a bite, so swiftly fed another few pouches of casters without making a cast. Third cast and the second fish was hooked, an even bigger example than the first, taken just as the rig fully set at dead depth. I couldn’t have been happier.

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This really was an immaculate fish, my PB too, for the ide/orfe species. Ide are a great looking fish, a blur between chub and roach, all steep shoulders and depth, and although their fight is not spectacular, they can have you on the edge of your seat. From sedation they spring into life, head shaking violently, all this happening at the surface so you know exactly what you have got to lose. In total over the next ninety minutes or so I managed to take six of these amazing fish. I had to follow them around the swim a little, vary the amount of feed and the regularity I was feeding it at, but it was enthralling and rewarding fishing.

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The last fish of the day was certainly no ide, though it was still taken on the drop, and on a single caster. Initially I thought it was a small carp so was quite surprised to see a tench pop to the surface some minutes later. It was obvious, now, that the ide had left the area. For a time I walked the banks again looking, or rather listening for, any further signs of them. This time, however, the water was silent, save for the gentle lapping of the ripples. I fished on regardless, more to soak in the atmosphere, than with expectancy of adding to my tally. It really didn’t matter one bit that the float wasn’t going to go under for a final time. This had been a day to remember.

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And can I apologise for the terrible title pun. I really couldn’t help myself.

Thanks for reading and until next time,

NorthwestFisherman

Early crucians (Entry 209)

The fish filled the bottom of my landing net. Bullion. A little paler than I remembered, no doubt from sitting in deep water for so long, over the cold Winter. There was numerous lice in residency, and two leeches, sure signs this fish has not long since woken from its slumber. The pull of the warmer marginal water, now sun soaked, had won over. As had the carefully presented hookbait amidst a sparse helping of free offerings. From my point of view the float barely moved. Indeed, it was not a vertical motion that had indicated a bite, but a horizontal one, as the float wandered from left to right in the tiniest way imaginable. Enough for a strike though, especially when there had been precious little movement for so long.

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I didn’t realise until in the midst of it but I had really missed this process. The careful plumbing up, the faith that the fish would turn up, that a few pellets could really pull a group of fish into the area. And the fight. That glorious thumping display, long pauses where they seem to hang and use their broadsided shape to make it as hard as possible to budge, especially on very light lines. I suppose you cant talk about a crucian fight without mentioning that moment where they just, well, give up. Funny little creatures thats for sure. Gloriously pretty, though.

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I’d taken a fair number of roach during the first few hours, some to a reasonable size, but the crucians had been absent. The night had been a cool one but now the day was warm. Really warm actually, wall to wall sunshine, with not a cloud in the sky. There really wasn’t. Apart from the strong wind that made bite detection problematic at times, the hours were passing far too quickly, especially as at the time a crucian had not graced the bank. Once one had though, I could really relax and take it all in. Usually when you can get to this state, a crucian zen if you will, more will undoubtedly follow. As proved to be the case before a rogue carp gatecrashed the party.

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Just how I had it on for so long using a 2lb hooklength is beyond me, but inevitably the double-figure bully found a way to shed the hook, leaving me amazed I lost the fish to hook pull rather than a break. I couldn’t find a way to add anymore crucians to my list, even the roach were playing much harder to get now, my two handfuls of gold was enough. With a hungry groaning starting in my belly, and with the air now feeling much more chilly, as seven o’clock drew round I decided to draw this session to a close. More than happy, of course, with the first real crucians of the year.

Thanks for reading,

NorthwestFisherman

Anglers Paradise; a lesson (Entry 208)

I was ready fifteen minutes before the alarm was due to go off. Everything present and correct. Mattress to swim in less than fifteen minutes. Bliss. The sun had not yet rose but the water, of the specimen orfe and tench lake, was already alive. Small fish, presumably orfe, topped regularly, whilst from the bottom, small bubbles were sent up by unseen culprits. You needn’t be Einstein to work out just what was responsible for them. I found an area of the lake with a pronounced plateau to which I could fish a heavy waggler down the side of. I was quite happy that with regular feeding, little and often, I would be able to have the best of both worlds. Tench on the bottom to start with, then later, big orfe caught on the drop. I began to feed pellets with the catapult whilst I drank the first tea of the day and devoured a Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer.

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My first cast, some thirty minutes or so later, produced the first fish of the day. A classic sail away bite, slow and pronounced, and my strike met with weight. A pale tench came to the net, all creams, pinks and pale blues. It was certainly a surprising catch even in this place of crazy coloured fish. Once returned I began to take a golden tench after golden tench, all around the pound mark, but as much fun as this was there was no sign of anything bigger moving into the swim just yet. The sun had long since risen and at a guess, because I’d let my phone at the villa, I felt it was around 9:00am. With the rising warmth now was the time to shallow up the rig ever so slightly, split the shot into much smaller ones, and start looking for fish higher in the water.

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The bait fell much slower now, and came to rest at dead depth, instead of the many inches over. I’d like to say that within minutes the plan worked, but in all honesty, it was more like an hour. Patience rewarded me with a fine orfe, a golden one, at well over three pounds. It fought like a wet sock until under the rod tip where it woke up and darted erratically. Once in the net the fish took on the persona of a grass carp and went absolutely ballistic. Thankfully it calmed down just long enough for me to get a picture or tow, before I released it, well rested and in fine fettle.

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Throughout the day, interspersed between literal handfuls of gold, I caught seven big orfe. The best a lovely blue orfe of over four pound. All the fish were in great condition it has to be said. As the sun began to slowly sink behind the hills I made contact with a much bigger fish. At first I though it was a tench, but the non-urgent nature of the battle, told me I was connected to an orfe. A very big orfe. Tense seconds dragged. As the fish neared the net I could see it dwarfed the biggest fish of the day. Adrenalin surged. Hands trembled. Then the rod sprang straight.

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Lets step back a little. You see, on the cast I made, the cast that would see the bait taken by the biggest orfe I’d ever hooked, I had an inkling there was something not quite right with the hooklength. A wind knot. A nick in the nylon. Something like that. The cast though was perfect and came to settle in a beautiful part of the swim. I’ll change the hooklength when I reel this back in, I thought to myself. Three minutes later I came to regret that lazy decision. Lesson learnt. If in doubt. Reel in. Change the hooklength. Change the whole rig if you have to. Just don’t do what I did. Don’t be an idiot.

I didn’t let this mishap spoil the day though. Finishing off with the smallest, but most colourful fish of the day. A deep, deep colour flanked this tench. Proof if proof is needed, that a fish doesn’t have to be the biggest, to be the best. Or is this something an angler tells themself to ease any woes brought on by fishing like a golfer?

Thanks for reading,

NorthwestFisherman

Anglers Paradise; a beginning (Entry 207)

Six days of fishing. Not exactly wall to wall angling, but pretty close. The long drive, marred by a colossal tailback on the M5, seemed now so distant as I sat and watched the finely dotted float tip. I had only an hour of daylight left before it would be too dark to see, but I knew the before then, I would have captured my first colourful fish. Indeed, it took around ten minutes for the orange tip to vanish, replaced by a tench of similar tone, a golden tench of around two pound. It fought spiritedly, it looked splendid, and welcomed me to Anglers Paradise in style.

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After an evening of eating and drinking, and a later than intended nightcap (or three), I thought it best to make a leisurely start to the next day. A stroll to the local shop first to pick up some breakfast items, then at a sedate pace, I prepared for a day on the Float Lake. The Devonshire weather was certainly shining. A clear blue sky, deep and saturated, stretching as far as I could see, lifted my soul. The sun warmed my back as I made up two rigs ready for the day ahead. My cup of tea didn’t touch the sides. Neither did my bacon and egg muffin. I was going to enjoy this.

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With such warm conditions the resident koi were easy to spot. Plenty cruised in the upper layers. Their pearly colours dulled only by a few inches of water between back and surface. Tail fins occasionally created vortexes. Floating morsels were suck down with a sharp slurp. A fine float rig was set a foot deep and baited with slow sinking bread. Within minutes the koi began to fall. In the first two hours I caught twenty. From a pound to around five, they obliged, taking the bread without any hesitancy, and fighting like fish twice their size once hooked.

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By mid afternoon the fishing became a little tricky, but a steady rain of 4mm pellets catapulted regularly brought a succession of golden tench to the net, as they took the bait in the upper layers of a five feet deep swim. That’s if they beat the hordes of tiny rudd to the bait. I had over forty of these beautiful, hard fighting fish, each one unique, some with red fins, some with white. Some with black spots whilst others had none. They all shared a black button eye and the same dogged attitude of their green cousins. Along with a smattering of blue and golden orfe, some sizeable golden rudd to just under a pound and a few rogue F1 type hybrids, I caught on virtually every put in over the next three hours, amassing more than a hundred fish and savouring every second.

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By late afternoon I’d had my fill, my arm ached, and my second flask had long since run out. Time to wander back to the villa for some food and a hoppy beverage. As I packed away, at my feet, the koi began to forage in the margins of the lake. For a moment I was almost tempted to have an extra hour fishing for them. But I resisted. I had plenty of angling ahead of me. Tomorrow, I had a day on the Specimen Orfe & Tench Lake booked, and preparing for that now would ultimately serve me better than a few more koi on the bank. Or so I hoped. In less than 12 hours I would find out.

Thanks for reading and until next time,

NorthwestFisherman

A hint of spring (Entry 205)

For once I set out in beautiful conditions, conditions that, dare I say it, felt like the middle of spring. The air had a serene stillness, one that allowed the quiet birdsong to resonate, sounds that would otherwise have been swept away on the wind. A largely dull day was forecast but the air temperature was good, nearly into double figures, as it had been for a few days prior. I was looking forward to this. The rivers were out of the question though, topped up to the brim by heavy rain, so once more I headed to a small stillwater with no bigger ideas than simply whiling away a few hours in the hope that at some point, my float would disappear.

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As this was an impromptu outing, bait was a few small pellets left over from last summers tench fishing, plus a few worms still hanging on to life behind the shed. And being a mixed fishery, one with all sorts of species (even ‘Heinz 57’ type species), I was confident that at some point in the day I would have a few bites. I set up to fish two lines comfortably; the pole being my chosen tool for the day. With two areas plumbed up and fed I did what I usually do and left them to settle. Of course, I had a cup of tea and a wander around the lake whilst I did so. Upon my return I threaded half a worm onto the hook and tried the nearside swim. A roach took the bait almost instantly, then a rudd, before a fighting fit common carp gatecrashed the party.

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After a few more roach and rudd, I re-fed both lines, and had another brew. The open water line I planned to leave well alone for another hour. Let any fish there really grow confident on those free pellets. In the meantime I fished two worms on the hook in the nearside swim, hoping to tempt a bonus perch or another carp, but the next sixty minutes passed uneventfully. I could wait no longer. I really needed to see if there was anything further out. And there certainly was. On the first put in, the float vanished, mere seconds after settling. At the end of a thumping battle a crucian/goldfish hybrid of over a pound lay defeated in the net. Not one for the purists but good fun nonetheless.

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And so it went on, feed, bite, feed, bite. As simple as you can get, with plenty of fish coming my way over the next ninety minutes. Goldfish, crucians, hybrids, small carp, a rogue tench and a few more roach. I have no doubt I would have carried on catching, albeit for the pellets running out, I would have fished it until darkness stopped me. But it was not to be. The prettiest fish today was a two toned goldfish, not a Ska-loving fish of course, but one that resembled an upside down sunset scene. If you really squint. On my way back to the car I spied a patch of flowering snow drops under the canopy of a small tree as well as a several patches of daffodil already well above the surface and looking proud. Spring really isn’t far away. Right now, thats a lovely thought.

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Thanks for reading,

NorthwestFisherman

Trio (Entry 203)

I suppose it was always going to happen. My first opportunity to go fishing in some time aligning with the weather taking a turn for the worse. Gale force winds chilled the air temperature and made sure it would do well to get above freezing at any point today. Like a madman, I hurtled down the motorway, half my thoughts fixated on that magical first cast to come, whilst the others were strictly keeping the car from being blown onto the hard shoulder.

It wasn’t the canal to which I headed, nor a river, instead I chose the sanctuary of a small, wooded pool. Or at least the sanctuary I hoped it would provide. With me was a meagre helping of ‘weeks old’ worms and a huge flask of tea. The many layers I wore made body movement cumbersome but they were soon appreciated when I took up my position, sat still staring at that beautiful orange tip bobbing amongst the waves and the strong, cold wind. For a few minutes the float did its best to hypnotise me, but just as I started to sink into a trance, the float disappeared without warning and with terrific pace. My strike set the hook and in the deep, clear water, a silver flank flashed.

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A quality roach came to that first cast. Over a pound in weight and scale perfect. A sucker for a small section of worm. The cold seemed to affect me a little less after this instant action. The cup of tea I celebrated with helped to warm even more. So too did the procession of little perch that stole my bait and for a time I was concerned that they were not going to leave me alone. That was until I hooked something bigger. In the deep, clear water, a golden flank flashed.

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I certainly wasn’t expecting that. My first crucian of the year, which like the roach, was superbly conditioned and fighting fit. I really was amazed to catch one in such cold conditions and it just proves that if there is something hungry nearby, you always have a chance, even when the mercury is well below what you would usually associate with a particular species. The little perch made an appearance once more, a dozen or more falling over the next hour, leaving me with little else to do than feed and hope something bigger again moved in. I ate a sandwich and drank more tea in the meantime. Half an hour soon passed and on my second cast in, the float sank away with much more purpose. Once more the hook was set into something that in the deep, clear water, flashed an orange flank.

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Certainly a fish to brighten a dreary day. Colours more at home at a 90’s rave. Talk about Day-Glo. It would be my last fish however, for soon after a bank of sleet blew in and even though my optimism still burned, that was quite enough for me. I was more than happy with my trio of fish cemented between the countless little perch. And content just to be out on the bank again, stealing a precious few hours, getting lost in my thoughts, and the soothing ripples.

Thanks for reading,

NorthwestFisherman