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

The staff of life (Entry 135)

With last weeks lesson still bouncing around my mind, I headed once more toward stillwater, keen to employ similar simple tactics in the hope of seeing a bright orange beacon vanish. It was a foul day. A swirling and gusting wind. Gale force at times. The moderate showers that were forecast would no doubt be made to feel much more wintery by the airflow. Raindrops pelted at right angles against the umbrella. Would the umbrella even make it until the end of the session? Bait choice was an easy one today; a trip to the local shop for a freshly baked loaf. Something to put on the hook and something to nibble on in between.

First things first; secure the umbrella down. I picked a swim on the back of the wind, which is not only where I expected the fish to be, but also gave my umbrella that bit more of a chance of survival. Next up was a cup of tea. I fed a few pellets I had left over from a previous session whilst I drank. A quick plumb up revealed the depth and the first cast was quickly made. To my surprise the float stayed in place pretty well, a fluke on my own part when placing the shot. It’s always appreciated when things just work. The wind really began to howl. Cutting through the towering trees bare branches. Hitting the far bank and deflecting downwards, creating all kind of interesting swirls and waves on the surface. I looked back at the float tip just in time to see it stutter a little, glide left and reluctantly dip below the ripples.

The business end of a hungry common

The rod hooped round as it met with the culprit. A carp fought in a typical fashion as it made a bid for freedom. In the shallow water the lean carp explored every bankside obstruction and root before finally succumbing. A really exciting tour of the water. It was a lean common. The fluffy bread proving too tempting to pass by. Just twenty minutes had passed and a fish was on the bank. Another heavy rain shower began to fall.

First fish of the sessionI was really enjoying fishing with the bread. I only left the rig on the water for a few minutes, striking the bread off before reeling in. A way of feeding the swim a little and keeping active. A heavy grey sky made it feel like it would be better to tuck myself at the back of the umbrella and hide away. But that certainly wouldn’t do. I stuck to casting regularly and hoped another carp would oblige. It was interesting, and sightly eerie, to note the absence of any birds in the strong wind. One of those details that goes unnoticed for a time but then once you become aware of, you can’t ignore. Very quiet indeed.

Vibrant winter coloursI did get another take. It took some time but was certainly worth the wait. A mirror carp this time, carrying some beautiful warm orange and red hues. In immaculate condition and fighting every inch of the way in. It was a particularly deep bodied fish. A miniature thirty pounder if ever I have seen one. I admired the perfect row of scales that lined its back and the similar cluster of scales dotted about its flank.

The second and last fish of the dayWith the fish returned I continued to fish on. A gust of wind hit the umbrella. I expected its force to lessen. Instead it grew in intensity. I held on for grim life, expecting to be blown to somewhere in the next county, instead the material parted from the rib. Rain rattled in. The wind followed suit. My enthusiasm began to drop the wetter I became, and without any waterproofs, I cut the session short. It had been surprisingly pleasurable considering the terrible conditions. I suppose it is only right to be exposed to familiar landscapes in less than welcoming conditions. They certainly change in them. Somewhere that can appear a welcoming place can quickly turn into a bleak one. And then turn back again. In the blink of an eye or in the shadow of a cloud.

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,

NorthwestFisherman

You should always have a plan B (Entry 74)

This week was a bit of a strange one really. My intention was to head to the small river stretch I have been fishing for its rather large, but very elusive, chub. Classic winter chub fishing was the plan; light ledgering with cheesepaste, bread and liquidised bread for feed if needed. Although the countries rivers have been swollen, a day or two before my session the levels began to drop and I was greeted with a slightly higher than usual but very coloured river. I wandered the stretch for an hour but I really didn’t fancy it. I should have known better. The river rises and falls quickly enough, but sometimes takes an extra day or two to get back into ‘perfect’ trim. Time for plan B then. Erm, yeah, about plan B…

Hardly ideal bream conditions either

In truth I hadn’t thought that far ahead. So heading back to the car I formulated a plan to go feeder fishing on a canal wide not too far away. Maybe fish a small cage feeder, bread flake on the hook and liquidised bread for feed. If I was lucky, a bream or plump roach would come my way but if I caught nothing at all, then that too wouldn’t really matter. It had turned into an absolutely glorious day. Hardly a breathe of wind, blue skies and sunshine. Not very good bream conditions then? Ok, enough of the excuses. After arriving at the canal I set up a running leger. Simply a 15g cage feeder stopped by two rubber float stops. This allowed me a quick change of tail length. Coincidentally the same setup I use for chub fishing. Of course this had nothing to do with my being a little lazy and not rigging up something different. I mean, it did, but its as good a setup to use than any other.

Initial feeder full of breadI found a gentle slope at around 30 yards out and elected to fish two thirds of the way down this. I clipped up and cast to the spot three times. That would be enough feed to start with. It was bitterly cold after all. I planned on casting every half an hour and that would be more than enough to keep the swim topped up. After an hour I had not seen any signs so I reeled in a lengthened the tail somewhat. Changing the feeder to a straight lead I began casting more regularly but to different areas of the swim, in an attempt to see if there were any fish hanging off the feed. There didn’t seem to be. On the far bank however it was a different story. For around twenty minutes I watched, not one but two kingfishers diving for the small fry fish. Much too far away for me to get a picture but it was amazing stuff to watch. The dual display that these vibrantly coloured little birds gave me kept me more than entertained as the sun started to drift lower in the sky and the shadows lengthened, I fancied it was now my best chance of a bite. My gaze was fixed once more on the delicate tip. Willing it to move. Jolt forward. Something.

Getting colder as the sun starts to setBut as the light faded I knew that no fish would grace the bank today. Nothing was rising or rolling. Even the small fish were notable in their absence. Apart from the birds and the odd dog walker, it had looked quite lifeless all day. I fished an hour into dark without success. The tip didn’t slowly pull round and the bream didn’t give themselves up. Still with the cold, bright conditions I never really expected to catch. But something that every angler will know, is even when your logic and past experience says ‘no chance’ there’s still that optimistic voice whispering in the background. ‘You never know…’

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 tight lines

NorthwestFisherman

Trying to find the chub (Entry 33)

More cold weather. Hopefully this will be the last really harsh spell we have before spring begins. I say hopefully as last year in just twenty four hours we had a temperature change of something like 17 degrees, and this was towards the end of April. We just cant predict what is going to happen, but one thing is for sure, I will always be out trying to catch fish. After scraping the frost from the car I made my way down the motorway having decided to head back to a familiar stretch. With the temperature dropping so significantly, I needed to give myself the best chance of a bite or two. But a bite from what? Chub were going to be my target, on many occasions they are a most obliging fish in far from ideal conditions.

I arrived at the river around midday and, as I usually do, walked the bank dropping a few helping of cheese paste in any likely looking spots. Of course, I have a few swims on this stretch now that I rate above others, but it is surprising how many of my PB’s or memorabe fish have come from swims that ‘usually dont produce.’ So its best to fish everywhere that looks right, regardless of past events. As we all know, fish sometimes forget to read the rules.

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The first swim I fished was a section I had never fished before. I always knew it was a slightly deeper section from the steadier water there. Not a sign of a boil or shallow gravel bank. IMG_1455I decided to give it an hour here, all the while trickling in a few tiny lumps of cheese paste. After twenty minutes of motionless tip, I reeled in and re-baited my hook with a section of spicy sausage wich got an almost instant reaction, and as the line pulled tight over my fingers, I struck into a lively fish. At first I thought it was a trout, but once the fish held deep in the steady flow I knew it was my target species. The first fish of the day is always played extra carefully and thankfully was netted without circumstance. Weighing in at 3lb 10oz its not a huge chub nationally, but for the river I am fishing, and certainly where I am fishing it, a very good chub. Happy with that fish and the little bit of information I had learnt about the section, I headed for more familiar territory in the hope some fish had located my pre-fed cheese paste offerings.

After a good twenty minute walk I arrived at a swim. The rig needed some adjustment for this swim. I wanted the bait to flutter underneath a overhanging tree, so I lengthened the gap between link and hook. I use a short section of fluorocarbon pulled through two float stops. This allows me to fish without any knots direct to my mainline but also to change the length of the tail to suit conditions or situation. Today a tail of about three foot seemed to be best. After moulding some cheese paste over the size 8 hook and taking an SSG shot off the link, I crept into position, and gently flicked the rig into position. I held the line tight just as it hit bottom thus allowing the shot and hookbait, hopefully, to pull round an end up somewhere under the overhanging tree. Its worth pointing out if you do fish like this and get a bite keep that rod low, even plunging it under the water, so the line doesn’t become tangled in the branches. What is a haven for a chub is certainly not for your line!

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All of a minute went by before the line tightened and another angry chub was hooked. This fish was a little smaller than the last but still a welcome fish on a cold and blustery day. After returning the fish I trickled in a little bit more bait and had a cup of tea, allowing the swim settle. Another cast was made a ten minutes later an another chub was hooked, in fact another lovely fish at 3lb 9oz.

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I tried a few more swims after this one and not one produced a bite. One of them usually a ‘banker’ swim too. Every swim fished allows you to build up a picture of what mood the fish are in. Today any swim that had a little bit of pace and/or less depth seemed IMG_1481devoid of fish. Slacker or deeper water produced a bite almost instantly. The fish were obviously trying to conserve as much energy as possible and laying up in steady water. Based on this knowledge I made the last swim a tiny but deep back eddy which I had found on my last visit. It didn’t produce that day but would it today? It took around five minutes for a bite to develop but eventually I hooked another chub. It fought extremely hard but I successfully netted the fish, even after it had dived for cover in the nearside brambles and vegetation, as they often do. Another 3lb plus fish and a happy, but cold, angler.

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Until next time,

NorthwestFisherman

Fishing the canal for specimen roach (Entry 30)

Im sure you, like me, have lots to look forward to in the coming year, new goals to achieve and hopefully new personal records to break. For me it would be to catch a 2lb roach. My current best stands at 1lb 15oz and if nothing else, proves I am an honest angler! I would dearly like to catch this 2lb roach from a canal, after all its on these venues that I first became interested in angling. So this week I decided to head to the canal in search of some specimen sized roach. Let me say at this point for me a specimen sized roach from a canal is anything over a pound in weight. I know that the canal is capable of producing big roach as I have caught them ‘accidentally’ whilst targeting carp on here last May before I started this blog. But the difference between late spring and winter is a big one, and having never fished this canal before in the depths of winter, especially fishing so soon after the snow we’ve just had, I had no idea if the fish were going to play ball.

IMG_0591The method I used today comes with an interesting story. Apparently used by an old man during the 1960 and 1970’s’s in the winter matches held on this canal, he was laughed at IMG_0594by fellow matchmen because of his use of heavy lines and large hooks. However he often caught huge roach, and by huge I mean fish of over 2lb. The fish of a lifetime for many anglers and truly colossal for a canal. His method involved using a small stick float attached top and bottom, often fished straight through on 4-5lb line to a size 12 hook. Bait was a big lump of breadflake or a lobworm and the rig was fished overdepth by at least six inches but as much as a foot. The rig was flicked out and allowed to pull round, the excess line ensuring the rig stopped and the bottom of the near shelf. Here he would wait for the float to sail away and massive roach to break the surface. My father used a similar method during the 1980’s on the Bridgewater canal to take some massive nets of bream and big roach. I remember him showing it to me some years later and I wondered how a seemingly crude tactic could out fish a finely presented waggler or pole float. Of course it makes sense to me now so I thought it was high time to give it a real go. Instead of using a rod, I used a pole to ensure my rig was fishing on the IMG_0597crease of the boat channel and the shelf. I made a small pole float modeled on a stick float, kind of like a thin, elongated dibber float and it was attached to a 3.6lb mainline. I too fished this straight through to a large, fine wire size 16 hook. The whole rig was plumbed up to be six inches overdepth, but I would add even more depth if I needed to. Hookbait today was going to be an 8mm punch bread. Simple as that. For feed it would be good old liquidised bread fed fairly regularly, every 15 minutes but only in a small amount. This canal suffers from heavy boat traffic and the pull on the water can be heavy at times so in order to keep a trail of bread particles in the general vicinity of my hookbait, I needed to feed this often.

As you can tell from the first picture it was very windy on the canal today. In fact gusts of wind near 40mph were predicted. The majority of the canal was still frozen over from the cold conditions we have had which made swim selection something of a lottery. I had to make do with a narrower sections near a small stone bridge. Not where I really wanted to be but I’m not making excuses, just supplying the facts. I decided to stick it out and fish an hour into darkness. I fed as I said I would, the rig fished really nicely, and held the hook bait relatively stationary in the fairly forceful flow. If I took an inch of depth off the bait would trundle through enticingly and allowed me to search the swim as if on a river. In five hours I didn’t have any signs. I didn’t see any fish move at dusk and apart from the array of small birds (I must get look into buying a bird species guide soon), the canal looked totally lifeless.

The fish are there though and hopefully if the weather conditions settle down and we have a milder spell for a week or so the roach may become more forthcoming. I’ll certainly be back to the canal soon when conditions dictate.

Don’t forget you can get twitter updates notifying you of new blog updates by adding @NorthwestFish or you can follow my blog by clicking the link at the top of the page.

Until next time,

NorthwestFisherman

Chub fishing in the snow (Entry 29)

With the cold weather continuing and more snow forecast, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to get out at all this week. Not because I don’t like fishing in the cold and when there’s a carpet of snow on the ground, I was simply unsure whether I would be able to get from my house to the river. Luckily the predicted heavy snow turned out to a little less than anticipated. Having not been out to the tackle shop I had no maggots in which ruled out a few hours trotting for grayling. I therefore had one option left which was to continue from where I left off last week, and fish for chub with cheese paste.

As I made my way down the M6 surprisingly the snow had indeed fell less and in the surrounding fields, bright green patches of grass could be seen. On arriving at the river I found much the same, snow drifts and deeper spots, with clearer patches of mud and grass standing free from snow. The river itself was at normal winter level and carrying more colour than last week, probably due to a little snow melt which didn’t fill me with confidence. But as ever, I did believe I had a chance of a bite or two. No doubt the fish themselves would be shoaled up tighter than last week. Having fished this stretch a few times now, I know some good areas to fish, some very tight to the near bank, behind obstructions that create perfect ‘ambushing’ areas for a chub to lie in wait for any food items to be brought down to it in the main flow. The snow, deep mud and persistent cold wind made walking the banks very hard and quickly sapped my energy. I don’t know what it is that drives us anglers to fish in such conditions but you really can see, if you step back from it all, how the general public and uninitiated might consider us to be mad.

It's important to leave your hook point exposed when using chesse pasteI fished a little differently from last week. Instead of feeding a number of swims and then fishing them in rotation, I decided to fish a bigger piece of paste but make this the only thing in the swim. Obviously if a fish is present then my chances of it picking up my bait were greatly increased. I was also basing this approach on the idea of ‘effort versus reward’. River fish fish need to keep eating as they are using energy constantly but when in a torpid state they would much rather get a lot of energy value from one big mouthful than have to use up a lot of energy picking off little morsels, such as maggot. Well that was the theory.

The first swim was fished for an hour,  a little longer than I would usually give it, but in that time I did cast to three different places that I thought would hold some fish. Alas there IMG_1356wasn’t any so I moved downstream to where the river runs underneath the road. I hadn’t fished this swim before but have always meant to. Just in front of the bridge support on the far bank there is a huge tree stump in the water that creates a delightful slack. It took a few SSG shot and a substantial bow in the line to hold bottom. It looked perfect but there it stayed for 20 motionless minutes. It was time for a little food and a warm cup of tea. It’s worth pointing out that if you are going to venture out fishing in cold conditions, that wearing lots of thin layers and taking enough food and warm drinks to cover your time on the bank, is very important. Fishing is something we do for fun and its worth taking care of yourself and not putting yourself in too much danger. Safety speech over! There was only one thing to do now, I had to take the long walk to the head of the stretch where there was three good swims all within 200 metres of each other. I didn’t relish the thought of the walk through saturated ground but I knew if I was to catch these swims would be my best bet. With that I set off for the horizon!

IMG_1352Some 20 minutes later I was at the first of the three swims. Its a small, but deep hole, tight to the near bank, and with a high bank it’s imperative to keep as low as possible. If this means crawling through mud and snow then so be it. On went a big lump of cheese paste and I lowered the rig into position. After ten minutes I felt a little pluck on the line before the tip was pulled round ever so slightly. Enough to strike at and thankfully I had a fish on, which at first I though was trout from the speed it took of at. The fish then held stationary in the main flow, shook its head and began to plod. Classic chub fight. Once netted and a quick photo taken, I weighed the fish at 3lb 10oz. Happy angler now!

The first fish of the dayAfter that fish I made my way to the next swim, its an interesting swim and one which holds a lot of options and places to present your bait. You can easily spend an hour there, which I did, but had nothing to show for my efforts. I think the fish were really tightly shoaled today and I might have fared better fishing into dark which wasn’t an option today. On my way back to the car I decided to have one last cast in the swim that gave me the fish earlier and I am glad I did as it produced another fish within five minutes, again to a big pinch of cheese paste. The fish was a little smaller at 3lb 8oz but made the arduous trek across the field that little bit easier. To catch any fish in these conditions would have been a good result, but to catch two good sized chub in just a few hours, during the day, I was made up.

A last gasp winter chubDon’t forget you can get twitter updates notifying you of new blog updates by adding @NorthwestFish or you can follow my blog by clicking the link at the top of the page. I update every Saturday morning.

Until next time,

NorthwestFisherman

Back on the roach trail (Entry 25)

As I am writing this I’m in fear that come the new year the UK might become lost under water. The rainfall we have been having is unbelievable, and although the only problem its causing me is making the decision of where to go fishing a lot harder, for others its having a devastating effect with many people losing their homes and possessions. So with all of this in mind I counted my blessings and was grateful for this weeks session after roach. Still raining however I could only access a few pegs as the water level had rose over the bank. In fact its happened on a fair few club waters, and many of them have been closed off until the water level drops.

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The venue I had chosen is only small in surface area, maybe enough room for eight or nine anglers. It is very deep though, 8-10 feet being average so there’s a lot of water. The bottom is not uniform and undulates a lot so careful plumbing up is required to enable you to get the best from your peg. It’s also a moody water but contains a good head of roach and bream to the pound mark, some very big perch indeed over 3lb, as well as some summer species like tench, crucians and wild carp, which although small really fight hard. I was here for the roach though, it was Christmas eve and I had managed to get away from the preparation for a few hours fishing punch and liquidised bread to see if I could tempt any of its resident roach. In all truth I wasn’t bothered by the size of the fish, the conditions were dire, and although a thaw is a good time for roach, in deep water I believe a temperature change takes a little longer to take effect. Great when the water is cooling, but not so the other way round.

Heavy rain and a pole float

The swim I had chosen was around eight foot deep at around 5 metres from the bank. I was happy enough with this and didnt see the point in going any further. If I had have been sitting it out for the bigger roach I would definitely have fished further from the bank and would have changed methods, but for today the pole would be my only weapon of choice. I fed a walnut sized ball of liquidised bread and fine tuned my rig so that just 5-8mm of tip was showing. I started fishing with a 4mm punch of bread roughly an inch off the bottom. I will change the depth a lot when fishing punch bread in order to find the ‘sweet spot’ that the fish are feeding at.

Have a good selection of different sized bread punchesI also think its vitally important to vary the size of the punch so its a really good idea to invest in a good set that will not only allow you to do this, but last you years if looked after. Todays session however was proving to be a tough one. After two hours and a lot of different options tried, it was time to plumb up a swim a bit further out as the fish were not in my first swim. I fed a little less bread this time, but still the fish showed no signs of feeding. Not a touch. I didn’t see a fish top or move anywhere on the pit. Still it beat the hustle and bustle of Christmas preparation.

This little 2oz roach saved me from a blankAt last! A move back my my initial swim on a 7mm punch I got my first and only bite of the session. A scale and fin perfect roach was my reward for sticking it out. It was a welcome fish although I must have caught thousands over the years it It's not just the rivers that are bursting their banksprevented a certain blank. Not that I am bothered about blanking by the way. Each fish-less session is only helping you work the water out. So what did I take away from this session? Well, I would most certainly try a natural bait approach next time, maggots or casters, maybe even chopped worm. Maybe a less static bait would tempt the pits residents more readily. I may have simply not been in the right area. Even on small venues the fish will shoal up very tightly when the conditions are very cold. Only a week ago this venue was covered in ice a half inch tick. I only know that I am already looking forward to my next session on here. Although realistically I probably wont be back here until the late winter early spring when I will see if I can tempt one of its big perch, before I turn my attention to a cheshire mere in the hope of landing a truly huge tench. Anyway, that’s a long way off and there’s plenty more fishing to be done between now and then.

Until next time,

NorthwestFisherman