For a complete and honest picture (Entry 211)

There isn’t going to be a single fish in this weeks blog. There’s not going to be any pictures either. I’ve had a terribly lean spell over the last week or so, and whilst it might not make for riveting reading, I thinks its only fair to acknowledge. I had planned three trips out, two at the weekend, and one mid-week after work on the local canal. But that was for the future. Today was Saturday, and although I really wanted to make the journey to catch crucians, having not done the alternative last year, I decided to go to a different venue and sit it out for a big bream.

I had two days in which to find them, on the first day I found an appealing gravel area to fish, where I introduced a fair amount of bait over the area, and positioned two rods on the near side of this. One I fished with three fake casters and the other I alternated between corn and a 10mm Boilie. Both were presented on helicopter rigs and fished at around 60 yards. It was as far from intimate as you can imagine. In between regular casts I got through a good book, ‘Ghost Story’ by Peter Straub, which didn’t help the hours after dark one bit and I can only conclude it scared the bream off, too. No fish in two days, no line bites, and precious little moving anywhere on the lake.

Wednesday rolled around and after a particularly quiet day at work, I couldn’t wait to walk down the canal, loaf of bread in hand looking for roach and rare chub. I looked for signs of fish topping. There was none. I looked for Crabtree-esque swim. There were precious few now a certain organisation had been through with their loppers. So I went with past experience. Sitting at the end of a run-off about 30 yards downstream from a lock. I’ve taken chub and decent roach from here in the past, and was soon presenting a flake well over depth, and expecting to make contact with a monster. Once again though, the fish did not play ball, though at least I had one bite this time. A bite that I missed. All this in four and a half, picture perfect, hours.

So that was my story for the week. Pretty dull in terms of fish captures. Pretty dull in terms of action. I wanted to include this though as a means to promote the idea that we all go through bad streaks. I’m not saying this in an inflammatory way, that I am somehow better than anyone else, and therefore an authority. Quite the opposite in fact. Merely we all have to concede that no matter what we do, if the fish don’t read the final lines of the script, we will never get to the final curtain.

And that’s a really good job, isn’t it?

Thanks for reading,

NorthwestFisherman

 

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Learning lessons (Entry 198)

Five minutes and I had arrived. Five minutes. A local stretch of canal would be my home for the next few hours. In fact not 100 metres from where I first wet a line with my Dad as a nipper. A chance to get right back to basics. Back then, I used a rod, one my dad set up and positioned. He fished, whilst I looked on, until he got the first bite. Then he let me take over. There I was sat on top of his blue shakespeare seatbox, feet in no danger of touching the floor whilst below them, newts surfaced for air. Fishing just off the rod end, and with more than a little help from my old man, it didn’t take long before the float disappeared and I caught my first fish. A three ounce roach. It was huge.

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Today I was fishing in much the same way as I did on that day, just off the rod tip, a small waggler did its glorious thing, whilst over the top I regularly fed three or four maggots. As simple as you can get, but one of the most important things to get to grips with in angling; knowing how to feed. Of course, my first fish wasn’t really caught by me. I may have struck, connected with and somehow managed to reel in the monster, but the hard work had already been done by my dad. Quietly, by my side, and completely ignored by his blinkered little boy. A few years later, I could set up like him, drink tea like him and even on occasion, swear like him but my catches and his were vastly different. That was when I realised just what I had overlooked for too long.

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I caught todays first fish, a nice hand sized roach, after about fifteen minutes before missing a few bites on the drop. Straight away I changed my feeding pattern; more maggots but less regularly. The roach settled on the bottom and I notched up a dozen or more over the next hour. Then the bites stopped. It was time for a judgement call. Anglers intuition on full alert. I had a hunch that this sudden disappearance was because some bigger fish had moved into the area.

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Now I could have gone back to feeding less maggots, but instead I took a risk, and fed a few handfuls in quick succession. Then it was time to exercise another of the skills demonstrated as being of absolute importance by my old man. Having patience. In my head I could hear his words, ‘you’ve made you choice now, so you’ve got to stick to your plan’. I can’t tell you how pleased I was when fifteen minutes later the float slowly sank and the unmistakable lumbering of a big skimmer confirmed my hunch was correct. It was then a case of feeding a good palm of maggots after every bream, something to localise the shoal from the disturbance of catching one of its members, and simply ‘sticking to my plan’. Fourteen skimmers and a perch later, the meagre amount of maggots I had brought with me, had all been fed. It was a brilliant few hours.

Thanks, Dad.

Until next time,

NorthwestFisherman

 

Nearly bream revisited / Houdini the Tench (Entry 183)

I found myself heading back to the same venue as last week. Thoughts of bream once again my catalyst. This week, however, I would catch a bream. I had to. There could be no excuses. Unlike last time when conditions were far from ideal, this week the weather was perfect, a warm wind, overcast skies and I had made a dawn start. I had casters with me too and these bream love casters. Even the peg I wanted was available. Yes, I thought to myself, if I don’t catch a bream this time I seriously need to hang my head in shame.

Ideal bream fishing conditions

In went twenty feeders full of casters, pellets, and groundbait at about forty yards where the slow, sloping shelf just about meets the deepest water in the lake. Here any marginal weed is minimal and the bottom is largely firm. Usually to the breams liking. I gave the swim twenty minutes whilst I drank a tea and set up the rest of my tackle, all the while keeping my eyes on the area where occasionally, in between gusts of wind, I spied an odd patch of bubbles. This was looking promising. I made my first cast and sat back. Almost immediately; a line bite. Then another. Next the tip slowly pulled around and held. I lifted the rod into nothing. Madness! I didn’t even feel the fish. Still, next cast I would get one, just wait and see.

A tench posing as a bream

Except I didn’t. An hour passed with absolutely no more activity in the swim. Where had the liners gone? The bubbles? Very, very strange. I topped up the swim with a few more feeders full of casters. A change of hookbait from caster to sweetcorn was also decided upon. Then a near perfect cast saw the rig in prime position. Time to cross the fingers of my right hand which would leave my left for when I really needed it later on. This seemed to work, as a few minutes later the rod was nearly pulled in, certainly not by a bream, this had to be a tench. Indeed it was, doing a little gardening in the thick marginal weed, a few minutes later the fish, accompanied by about the same amount of weed, was safely in the net. A green present wrapped in green paper.

The first and biggest bream of the day

But still not a bream. I changed back to a caster hook bait where almost instantly I had another bite. On the other end of the line a slow, plodding weight. That beautiful slow, plodding weight of a bream. At last! Now to lead the fish in without too much pressure on the hook hold. As bream do, it behaved impeccably, swimming in a straight line from swim to net. It was a decent fish too. A 7lb’er in fact, and was the first of four fish, though the next three fish were all slightly smaller around the 6lb mark. The last fish I hooked was the same species as the first, though this one had much different ideas on how the fight would end, and this tench felt lager than the first. It kited to my left at a ridiculous speed, directly into a bed of lilies, and there it went solid. Completely locked up. There was nothing for it other than paying out some line, placing the rod down, and waiting. Now was the time to cross the fingers of my left hand. Minutes passed. The moment of truth came slowly round, rod in hand I reeled down, still there was weight, and a kick from the unseen fish. But miraculously it pulled through the lilies with the gentlest of force. What joy, another weedy green present safely netted, ready to be unwrapped.

This time however that green parcel was an empty one.

Thanks for reading,

NorthwestFisherman

Nearly bream (Entry 182)

I cast out for what must have been the thirtieth time. Despite the strong wind that blew across me from right to left, the rig flew true and landed in pretty much the same place it had been doing on previous casts. Give or take. It’s quite satisfying you know, when you really feel like you are doing things well, like deep down you know you will be rewarded with a bite. Eventually. I was still waiting for that first bite of the day, you see, after slab sided bream on a Cheshire Lake. Conditions were not ideal for bream fishing by any stretch of the imagination but I have caught them from here in similar conditions in the past so my confidence wasn’t too low.

Not a bad place to while away hours

Of course, sitting in such beautiful surroundings helps matters a fair bit, especially when its more than a little slow, and because bream bites are usually pretty slow and steady, you can afford yourself more than a fleeting glance at something other than the quiver tip. The shimmering trees, with sunlight cascading off their healthy green leaves, or perhaps down into the margins, where clear water makes it easy to spot all manner of creatures. Swan mussels, water boatmen, whirligig beetles and of course, plenty of tiny fish. There was even a small jack pike, either hiding under the stage or on the blind side of an obstruction, whilst the fry fish shoaled, out of sight, on the other. A game of cat and mouse, of survival, perfectly and simplistically playing out in front of me.

Cat and mouse or pike and rudd

But of the bream there was no sign. Three hours had flown by without so much as a line bite. I had started fishing with corn, a good visual bait that can pick up a quick fish or two, but this time it seemed gaudy was not to their liking. Double fake caster was my reserve bait choice, tough enough to withstand the attentions of the many tiny rudd and perch, but tempting enough for an old bronze bream. They usually love casters on here too, and I had fed a fair few of them by now, but still the swim was devoid of fish. Maybe it was time to try a pellet?

A banker of a bream bait

After six hours and with my bait now nearly gone, I had my first action of the day, a savage line bite that immediately dispelled any thoughts I had of blanking. The bream were here. They had found the bait and were currently chomping down mouthful after mouthful of crunchy casters. It would only be a matter of time before one of those mouthfuls picked up my hookbait. I re-cast and sat back. Poised. Alert. More than I had been all day. Five minutes went by. Five that turned into ten. Then twenty minutes. Time to re-cast. But still nothing materialised. The tip simply refused to ‘do its thing’. On the opposite bank, a golden scaled common leapt clear of the surface, smashing up the lilies upon re-entry. It grabbed my attention quite easily, and for a few moments I was transfixed, by the concentric circles now growing larger and beginning to fade, much like my dreams of bream.

But not before I began to imagine a bream bite starting to play out, quiver tip pulling round slowly into a pleasing arch, and that when my gaze once again fell upon it, I would have all I wanted. It did no such thing. Maybe I shouldn’t have looked back at all.

Thanks for reading and until next time,

NorthwestFisherman

All change (Entry 148)

In stark contrast to last week, the rig was punched 40 yards from the bank, a large feeder filled with groundbait, small pellets and casters quickly shrinking in size. It crashed into the water, the sound echoing on impact, bouncing off the trees that circled the water. It’s sometimes hard to believe that such a crude and intrusive method can catch fish. Good sized ones too. What it is to be delicate should always be judged in comparison to the quarry, this wouldn’t be good enough to catch 6oz roach but for big bream, it could be considered ‘perfect’.

It's easy to sit and wait in conditions like thisWhat wouldn’t be considered ‘perfect’, at least by the angling textbooks, was the conditions. A largely cloudless sky and a sun that blazed down. The wind was almost non-existent giving little respite from the warmth. Resident dragonflies, supercharged by the warmth, whizzed around hunting other flying insects. I wished they would thin out the mosquito population somewhat. I’d already been bitten a few times. Time to apply the deet.

The first bream of the dayI had just finished smothering my right arm in the repellant when the rod tip jagged forward sharply. A line bite, I was pretty sure. Encouraging. Then began the debate began, whether to start ‘deeting’ my left arm or not, surely a more potent remedy for provoking a bite than reaching for the flask. Indeed, had I begun to deet up my limb I would have been interrupted, as the tip slowly pulled round and held. I casually leant forward to pick up the rod and connected with a lumbering weight. No need for super quick reflexes here. My first bream of the day and a fantastic start.

Smaller baits in hot weatherSimilar to when rivers are low and clear, in bright and hot conditions, I favour fishing smaller baits for bream. The three rubber caster I was using as bait proving just too real looking for this bream. A very quick picture was taken, making sure the mat was well wetted before removing the fish from the water, an important point but even more important in hot weather. Then it was time to get the rig cast back out. Bream never swim alone and I fancied another bite or two despite the baking heat.

Another bream in the netI had to wait a little while for my next indication but I was grateful just to be getting bites. This bream seemed to have responded to a few quick casts in succession, concentrating the feed, giving the fish something to home in on, amongst the sparse, larger feed area. I like to bait an area beyond where I’m fishing to give any fish a place to back away to or to gain confidence from. Thats my take on it and it seems to work ok on this venue. There is always that niggle in an anglers mind of course. Could I be catching more doing something different? Lately however I’ve tried to re-train my brain; I could be catching more doing something different, but I’m happy doing what I am doing, so that is the right method for the day.

A bream in the sunFours hours soon passed and I had to leave just before the evening fell. I had managed to land six bream during that time, every one between seven and eight pound. Given the conditions and the time I fished I was happy to call the trip a successful one. Enjoyable too, fishing on the tip, rather than sitting behind alarms. I think an evening trip needs to be planned, fishing into the darkness, to see if I can trip up one of the double figure giants that live in these waters. There’s always the big tench too. I just can’t decide! Though I’ll probably need the alarms for those. Oh and I completely forgot about my left arm. The mosquitos had a field day.

The last fish of the dayThanks 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.

Click here to go to the NorthwestFisherman Facebook page

Until next time,

NorthwestFisherman

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.

Click here to go to the NorthwestFisherman Facebook page

Until next time,

NorthwestFisherman

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.

Click here to go to the NorthwestFisherman Facebook page

Until next time,

NorthwestFisherman