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

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Doorstep to doorstep (Entry 206)

I headed to the local canal this week, a place I have had a few attempts at fishing in the past few weeks, simply because it takes minutes to get there. When time is short, I’d rather spend an extra hour fishing than driving an extra hour simply getting somewhere to fish. With a rise in the water temperature I expected that the fish would be willing to feed, but this being a canal, you shouldn’t get too carried away. Fine lines and small hooks are still a must whilst the water still has clarity and forget about piling in bait. Especially when you are after roach.

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Believe it or not, after feeding a palmful of hemp at the start of the session, I fed just three casters every fifteen minutes or after catching a fish, to keep interest without feeding them full. The canal I am fishing has a typical natural venue cycle; the first hour is positive, then the fish become cagey. Then is the time to re-feed and rest the swim, sometimes for half an hour or longer, and this will see the fish return. Today was no different. Using a long crystal waggler, with a foot of line on the bottom, I was able to slow the bait down adequately against the canals natural tow. The bait still moved, but very slowly, something that roach cannot resist at times. In fact, my second cast produced a bite, a small roach to start with at 6oz. My next cast however produced one of a much better stamp.

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This roach was well over a pound, though not quite two, and fought like a tiger. For their size, and on balanced tackle, I can never get over just how hard roach fight. Fooled on a single caster with a size 20 hook buried inside. I was overjoyed. A true gem of the canal in the middle of a bustling city centre. I guess the busy banks do go some way in keeping the cormorants at bay, especially so when said banks are flanked with apartments, dog walkers, or someone having a sneaky cigarette on their balcony. They all help. After that fish I continued to catch 6-8oz fish, over 15 in fact, before losing a roach even bigger than the first. My heart dropped to my shoes. A lull in activity followed, forcing an earlier than intended re-feed of hemp, and the consumption of my sandwich. Time to rest the swim and lick my wounds.

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The gamble paid off, thankfully. Half an hour later, on my second cast, I hooked the second pound plus roach of the day, smaller than the first but still as magnificent. A brace to be proud of. A few small perch then turned up, which I never think is a good sign to be honest, before out of the blue I hooked into another good fish which took the caster on the drop. The rod locked up, the fish jagged hard and ran, before shaking its head where the hook, again, pulled. A silvery flash was my only glimpse of the fish as it swirled down into freedom. I dearly hoped it was a hybrid or a chub. In fact, I know it was. I can’t even begin to consider the alternative. And that is all I am going to say on the matter.

Until next time,

NorthwestFisherman

 

Close, but not yet (Entry 196)

Well, here we go again, down the rabbit hole into perch madness. It’s my yearly grounding. A time to reappraise any notions I have of understanding a specific quarry. In quite a perverse way I do kind of enjoy it. At least for a time, but I’m now at the point where I need to step back, and let a week or two pass. Theres some very good reasons for doing this too. Let me explain whilst I tell you how I faired back once more on the canal.

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I had arrived at a lovely looking stretch, one I had fished before but not for some time, and with memories of big sergeants caught here from yesteryear, I set about my task with renewed enthusiasm. The conditions were far from ideal, bright sunshine, but with only one day to choose from and a very perchy itch that needed relieving, I carried on regardless. I mean, even in this bright light, surely that undercut bank and overhanging tree would hold a few fish?

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Doing something for too long, at least from my point of view, puts you dangerously in the scopes of ‘burning out’ fast, your mojo teeters on the edge, and worst of all, any enjoyment you are clinging onto comes close to being snatched away. A very loud echo seems to be resonating from somewhere, circa October 2015, a familiar voice offers, ‘you’re doing it again, maybe its time for a break’ or something like that.

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I’d been building a swim in the deep water of the boat channel, hoping that in the depth a big perch may be hiding, eyeing up the gudgeon and quite plump roach that were finding red maggot irresistible. Today was going to be a numbers game, keep catching and hope that something large falls foul to one of the the tiny red morsels falling from the sky. A hope that would fade throughout the session whilst ironically the sport did the opposite. I caught over a hundred fish, nothing bigger than 10oz, even when I presented worm instead of the usual maggot. Still, it was more active than ‘sitting it out’ something thats been the backbone of the last few sessions. It was quite enjoyable.

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This change in tactics reminded me that occasionally the best ideas come from the least likely situations. In the shower. Whilst stuck in traffic. That being, thinking passively can sometimes be better than slogging it out, like it’s starting to feel I’ve been doing. Maybe a few trips on the river after dace or a days carp fishing are in needed. They could just spark an idea about these perch, or lack of them, that would otherwise lay dormant if fully focussed. And speaking of laying dormant there was still one thing that needed exploring before I headed home from my session.

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The far bank swim had been untouched all day, slowly fed with worm sections and left alone, for the smells and vibrations to entice any predators nearby. I wondered if anything was waiting for me. It was time to look. For five minutes my lobworm sat pretty. Then a small tremble on the float. Interest that turned into another ten minutes of nervous anticipation. The float then did its most brilliant thing without any further warning and sailed under. On the strike elastic was stripped from the pole. This was certainly a powerful fish but not one carrying any significant weight. It was my target fish though, and quite a looker. Yes, this was a much better term to part company with the canal on. Much better than actually catching a monster. Close, but not yet. I’ll be back.

Thanks for reading,

NorthwestFisherman

Swimming in milk (Entry 191)

A grey sky turned dark, toward rich blue, the ambient light depleting with every subtle colour change and passing second. I was fishing at close range now, just a few feet from the metal pilings at my feet, but previously I had been casting to the far side. The float could not be seen at this range anymore. Not for the last twenty minutes. So here I sat, a last ditch effort to land a big perch, mere inches from where I had been returning all the fish I’d caught over the past few hours. Two big dendrobaenas were wriggling beneath my float in the murky, boat churned water. Vibrations and tempting smells being sent out. It would appear, however, that the fish in the vicinity were blind, anosmic, or perhaps it would be far easier just to say, absolutely senseless. A bit like the angler sat in the gloom, miles from anyone, a little lost in just what it was he was doing.

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I had caught plenty of fish in the few hours I’d been here, little baby perch, ruffe, and even the odd skimmer but the bigger perch had evaded me. Twelve ounces or so seemed to be the limit. How often I’ve been in this situation before. I had caught some peculiar coloured perch though. These fish intrigued me. Their ventral fins, usually burning with orange and red had been replaced, by ones of white with only the merest a hint of warmth. Like koi carp swimming in milk. The colour was not washed out due to environmental factors more than it was simply absent. And I had caught two like this. One of half a pound and one of an ounce. I wondered if they were related.

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One thing I had no problems catching had been crayfish. Some big ones too. An explosion of the swines meant that anything with the slightest hint of smell saw cursed words following the stuttered movements of my float. They really are a pain and cannot be good for the canal in the longterm. Sadly, they’re here to stay and the only benefit is that when the bigger perch learn that they are tasty and filling, there should be some brutish perch in the making. Ones that may help in keeping the crayfish numbers at bay. Maybe, just maybe.

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By now I had packed away, even at a few feet I could not see the float tip, and didn’t really fancy my chances anymore. A big perch had not came my way. I mused on the matter whilst I made sure I’d not left anything in the darkness. The fish are probably quite localised so it will be best for me to go to them rather than wait for them to come to me. Next time I will pack the lure rod and cover a few miles. I’ll avoid the crayfish at least. Maybe I’ll pack the crayfish imitations. If you can’t beat the join them. Or something like that.

Thanks for reading and until next time,

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

The convenient cut (Entry 176)

A scattering of the white stuff greeted my glance out of the window. A few inches deep in places. The air temperature previously had been seriously cold, although I was sure with the falling of the snow, this would have risen somewhat. Still, it was the temperature and trend of the water that counted most. I had two options. Head to the river with a trotting rod and fish a few swims or head to a canal and find an area free from ice and stick it out. The river is where I really wanted to make my way to but looking at the river levels, and drawing from previous experience, I begrudgingly left it well alone for another week. Canal time it was then.

I made for the sanctuary of a canal section with moored boats, obstructions, snags and a little more depth than the the canal has elsewhere. It was to be a day of setting my stall out, baiting and waiting, hoping that at some point a fish or two would find my feed area and, well, feed. The obvious place to fish would be the boat channel but cold water sinks and I expected this area to be the most unpleasant for fish. Instead, I fished ‘up the self’, the nearside shelf in fact, deeper than the far side shelf and comfortably wedged between four moored narrowboats. I made this my swim.

The swim

The canal was pretty much free from ice, just the occasional raft came drifting by, carried by a moderate and cold wind. I fed the swim with a generous amount of chopped worm along with a few maggots. A cup of tea was then poured and the swim was allowed to settle. A brilliant dash of blue interrupted my day dream. A kingfisher streaked past, a tiny fish trapped in his beak. I hoped I could follow his lead. At least in catching a fish. Certainly not in flying or developing a beak. The first half an hour dragged by, not so much as a touch, then from nowhere the float darted under. A tiny perch but a fish none the less.

It's a startAfter several of these little perch came an even more tentative bite. One I eventually missed. I wondered what on earth it was. The next cast the same thing happened. Tentative bite that was easily missed. I changed to a smaller hook and a smaller piece of worm. I had a hunch that this might be a better stamp of fish. There was something quite large about these tiny bites. On the first put in after scaling down the float once more stuttered into life but this time with more positivity. I struck and managed to hook the fish. An icy cold redfin. A beautiful visitor on such a bitterly cold day.

Quality roachThe next hour saw another five of these roach landed. All falling to a small worm section. A pinch of maggots fed after each fish seemed to keep them interested. That is, until, a procession of narrowboats passed through and really stirred things up. The fish dispersed and I had no further bites. There was one person who was catching with regularly though. The kingfisher flew past for the eighth as I started to pack up, this time two fish in tow, a much better angler than I will ever be. I really enjoyed a few quick hours on the cut. Even in difficult conditions there is always a few fish to be caught.

Until next time,

NorthwestFisherman