Just enough time for excuses (Entry 214)

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading and until next time,

NorthwestFisherman

Crucian comeback (Entry 213)

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for reading and until next week,

NorthwestFisherman

Trout mask [no replica] (Entry 212)

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading,

NorthwestFisherman

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

 

Supercharged / superforgetful (Entry 190)

What a turn around the river had made; a red-brown torrent streamed. Down the centre of the river, foam from an upstream rapid section collected, a white stripe where the current flowed its most fierce. The place where I sat last week was out of view and off limits, drowning under at least three feet of extra water. In front of me, deep water eddied creating a slack section, central to the bank I stood upon and the main flow. In these types of conditions its such places I like to look for. Havens for barbel to take a few moments refuge. Chub too. I’ve caught some big chub from similar swims in the past. Today though, I’d set my sights on barbel, a safer bet in flooded conditions.

Boilies for the win!

The rig was different to last week. As was the bait choice. Heavy line and a strong hook would be paramount in helping to land a hard fighting barbel in the strong flow, and bait needed to be heavier and less round. I halved some old boilies that I’d had hanging around for months. I needed to get rid of them more than anything and this seemed an opportune time. Everything would be fed via a PVA bag, and a paste wrap around the boilie hookbait would finish everything off. Half an hour passed and in that time I made three casts, the first two were ended by debris collecting and dislodging the ledger, whilst on the third the rod hooped over. My first barbel of the day and it fought like a madman.

The first barbel of the day

The next cast and another barbel decided that my hookbait was the new must have snack. The same brute strength and ferocious speed as the first. I rested each fish I caught for at least fifteen minutes before returning them. It’s always important to make sure barbel have recovered but even more so with increased flow. Especially given how hard these particular fish were fighting. A lull in activity then ensued, giving me plenty of time to watch the wildlife; A pair of kingfishers and a grey heron. Even a little owl fleetingly made a daylight appearance. Two hours passed without any further fish. The river dropped over a foot and a half in that time, and I found that casting a little further out, chasing that ‘walking pace’ water as the flow decreased helped to get my next bite.

And the last barbel of the dayThough I did miss it and the next one. Chub more than likely. I convinced myself they were the smallest chub in the river just to make my failure easier to stomach. Then the weather took a turn for the worse. The rain came, the wind blew, the landscape became that of slate but another two barbel made all that secondary. The last fish stripped twenty yards off the reel with ease. I thought I’d hooked a salmon. These fish are so healthy. My plan was to stay into dark and I probably should have done but with an hour to go, my flask drained, sandwiches still in the fridge at home (I’m getting so forgetful – might be time to start doing Sudoku’s), I retreated and left the barbel in peace. Happy of course. Very happy indeed. And I’d got rid of the boilies.

Thanks for reading,

NorthwestFisherman

Something a little different (Entry 189)

It must be getting on for a year since I last fished a river. A staggering statistic considering they are, without doubt, my favourite type of water to fish. Big or small, low and clear or up and coloured, I just love the challenge flowing water brings. Their ever changing quality and the fact there is no way of knowing just what fish are in front of you. They are certainly intriguing places. I arrived at midday to a low, clear river, but I still felt quite confident of a bite or two. Maybe enthusiasm was masking better judgement. Fellow anglers were thin on the ground, and the ones that were there, all talking of how tricky the river was fishing. I really hoped they were wrong.

Their thoughts and opinions were not ignored however and whilst I tackled up, just one rod to make my presence less intrusive, I opted to fish fine and cautiously. Barbel would still be my target but the tactics would be less ‘heavy’ than usual. It would be interesting to see if this softly-softly approach worked and what would be tempted in amongst the barbel. I rigged up a light bomb rig, just capable of holding position in the faster water, three quarters of the way across the river. Instead of feeding with a feeder or suchlike, I would feed the small pellets with a catapult, little and often, just like I was trotting a float. My plan was to cast more frequently too, searching the swim for pockets of fish, instead of sitting idly for periods of time and simply waiting.

A barbel to start

It didn’t take long to get that first bite. Twenty minutes or so since my first pouch of bait settled, the rod tip lurched over in a most familiar way, a barbel had to be the culprit. My light rod soaked up the fishes lunges, which instead of powerful, surging runs, were moderate nods and head shakes. Dare I say, more of bream, than barbel. I calmly led the fish into the shallower margin of my own bank, and here the fish made a few runs, ones that were easily cushioned by the rod blank. At the end of one such run a moderate sized whiskery head popped above the surface. Under controlled strain I rolled the fish backwards and over the net. That will do just fine!

A 'choach' amongst the chub

After the barbel, I had a run of small chub, nothing bigger than two pound, but it was great to see so many smaller fish present. Mixed in with them I had a roach/chub hybrid that, when still a distance from the bank, had me nervous for a time as I thought I had hooked a big roach. Not so, but a beautiful fish, a little under two pounds. After a small lull in activity some very fast, hard to hit bites plagued me. A shoal of dace, attacking the bait on the drop and after one or two of them were caught, a small brown trout made an appearance. Five species and counting. I couldn’t stay until dusk today, so come early evening, I made my last cast. The reward was another bottom feeding ‘monster’ of the river; a two ounce gudgeon. Four barbules to start with and two to end.

A gudgeon to finishThanks for reading,

NorthwestFisherman

Tench fishing sunset (Entry 188)

The nip in the air made it feel like I should perhaps have been heading to a river rather than to the banks of an intimate cheshire pool. Surely, it wouldn’t be long before the tench put on their winter coats, and sit it out until next spring. Yes, I thought as I headed through evening rush hour traffic, I’ll definitely make this my last tench trip of the year. I found the pool empty upon arrival so headed for a peg I have done well on in the past. It just so happens that on my way around I saw the unmistakable signs of tench feeding, in a swim I had never fished before. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, and being a firm believer that you can only catch whats in front of you, in this case quite literally, my plan was quickly changed and I made myself comfortable in the unfamiliar peg.

Mr tench

Feeding a small amount of pellets and hemp whilst I set up, the fish bubbles temporarily abated, but much to my delight begun again, pretty much on top of where I had fed not minutes before. I had a bite on my first cast, a very tentative one, which I missed. I debated setting up a more sensitive waggler rig, but the novelty of simply being in with a chance of catching something on the lift method, won over. There will be none of this happeneing until next April, I thought, best enjoy it whilst I can. My mantra for the session. The next cast produced an unmissable bite, the float dragged under with such determined effort, that there was no way on earth I could fail to connect with it.  A lovely, fighting fit four pound tench, though it fought like twice its size.

A prize and a fiery sky

As is the case at this time of year, the evenings begin to draw in. A soon as the sun dropped behind the trees, the temperature was noticeably cooler. The clouds began to roll in too, always threatening rain but never quite delivering. They took on a most incredible colour as the sun began to set; orange fringes around shades of purple. It was fitting then that amidst this reflection another tench had just dislodged the shot, making the float rise like a beacon, a lighthouse out at sea amidst stormy skies. The tench this time was a little smaller and soon rested in the net. I poured a tea and took in the moment before bringing her to ground to unhook.

Farewell

This sleek, well proportioned tench of around three pounds, would more than likely be my last of the year. She was ready to go back now, into the sunset, both of the day and of the summer. I cast out once more, with little need to catch anything else, the rig in the water perhaps simply giving legitimacy to my being there. I sipped slowly at my tea and waited for the daylight to end. It wasn’t long before night took over.

Thanks for reading and until next time,

NorthwestFisherman