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

Ratchet (Entry 187)

With a warm westerly wind blowing, it was the east bank where I found the carp, some basking in the last shafts of evening sun, others beginning to root around on the bottom, disturbing gasses and clouding the water. A swim with overhanging trees either side of me, but at a great enough distance not to offer too much danger, seemed like the perfect place to begin. In went a palmful of sweetcorn just a rod length out. Even though it doesn’t work on this particular venue, apparently. Often, baits that don’t work on venues, don’t work because people hear they don’t work, so never try them. At least thats my theory.

I retreated behind one of the trees. I’d left my tackle there, well, I’d left my Avon rod and landing net, everything else was in my pocket. A few pieces of quill, some split shot and a packet of hooks. The makings of a classic setup; the lift method. Another palmful of sweetcorn went into the swim whilst I quickly set up the rig. Once complete I re-checked the only knot I’d tied, guesstimated the depth, fed another helping of sweetcorn and cast in. The pleasing plop of a swan shot breaking the surface is one I’ll never tire of. Especially when below the surface lurk hungry monsters. I tightened the line, cocking the float most pleasingly, and time began to tick by. The finches chattered. A buzzard circled above. The ratchet screamed into life. That didn’t take long. I hung on as a powerful carp surged out into the lake, muttering under my breath to the fish, to not come off. ‘Please don’t come off’.

I piled on the pressure. The rods forgiving action tested to its limit. Out in the lake the carp began to arch round, back towards my bank, hell bent on finding one of the overhanging trees. At this point I heard a tiny plop in the margins at my feet. Not enough to warrant more attention but too unusual to miss. I thought nothing of it and the fight continued. The carp had just about made it to the canopy of the tree. I couldn’t allow the fish an inch, and with a grimace and a prayer, managed to turn it, the carps tree-ward arch turning into full circle as it headed back out into open water. This time, though, its run was strangely silent. The ratchet did not scream. For a moment I though the line had been severed but looking down I noticed the ratchet was no longer there. That tiny plop I’d heard moments before. That was my ratchet falling off. And what a time to do it!

It wasn’t the end of the world though. It made playing the fish more tense but a whole lot quieter. Second by second, inch by inch, the carp came closer. The tree no longer seemed within its reach and soon it wallowed within netting range. I steadied my nerves and scooped up my prize. With the fish safely cradled I dropped the rod on the reeds. The centrepin spun. Line spilling off. An ever growing birds nest formed. But none of that mattered now. What a fish I had to admire. What a story. A worthy adversary on light tackle. In fact, this carp could now boast, when back amongst its lake mates, to being a bonafide tackle breaker. A centrepin crunching, ratchet wrecking, brute. In ten minutes the session had been made. In ten minutes the session had come to an end. A great fish had been caught on one of my favourite methods. And on a bait that doesn’t work.

A bonafide tackle breaking mirror carp

Thanks for reading and until next time,

NorthwestFisherman

Two bites at the tinca cherry (Entry 186)

The sun began its descent toward the horizon, a little earlier than a few weeks ago, and my swim begins to come alive. First a single bubble over the baited area. Single bubbles turn into patches. They moved inch by inch, giving a clue to where the fish making them, may be heading. It’s a tench no doubt. Nothing else creates bubbles like that. At any one time there could be two or three separate fish sending up plumes of bubbles, signalling quite clearly that they were here, and feeding. But can you catch me, dear angler? As of yet, the answer was no. I’d had no bites; the float only dipping once or twice as a fin glanced the line. Patience was needed. I was sure the bite would come.

Consolation tench

Some time passed before the float sank confidently and I struck into such a powerful fish. It bolted at terrific speed. A line of bubbles ascending from where it had furrowed into the silt. I could almost hear them fizz as they hit the surface. The fish did not stop. Even with the stout persuasion I was giving it. Its progress did come to an end; finding the overhanging branches and roots of a tree. Fish one. Angler nil. And believe it or not, and let me say at this point I’m still at a loss, the same thing happened a further four times. Two made for the tree, one the reeds and one made the lilies its sanctuary. With each loss I was sure ‘that was the last time I’d let that happen’ but evidently the fish had other thoughts. Eventually I did land a fish, two in fact, but much smaller than the ones that got away. With the light now all but gone and the delicate tip of my float hardly visible, I had to leave somewhat defeated, but still glad to have been rewarded with two immaculate green jewels. A return session was in order.

A promising start

A dawn start back in the same swim. This time my baited area was a little further away from the overhanging tree. Maybe it would afford my reflexes that bit more time to steer these ‘steam trains’ away from danger. Straight away I had bubbling and fizzing in the swim. It was alive, and it took just ten minutes for opportunity to turn to success, as the first tench of the day was hooked. I even steered it away from the snags and landed it. But this fish did not have the power of the ones I hooked and lost last time. Still, a fish on the bank is worth a swim full of bubbles. The next cast and produced another tench. I had to wait a little longer for this one but again, this fish was not in the same league as the ones from last time. I wonder what they were? They didn’t feel like carp. Certainly not all of them. The greatest draw of angling; the need to find out.

They're getting smaller

Over the next 90 minutes the fish became a little fussy and I missed numerous bites. A combination of finicky feeding and a backlit float made bite detection very hard. I did hook another smaller tench which turned out to be the last if the session. The swim turning utterly lifeless. Just as the sun began its ascent from the horizon. The tench would no doubt be heading for cover. You know, trees, reeds and lilies. There was no way I would be making the mistake of fishing near such things this time.

Thanks for reading and until next time,

NorthwestFisherman