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

Patience, panic, respect, reward (Entry 197)

It certainly was pleasant to be doing something different, in the Autumn sun that beamed down. I thought about the perch I had chosen to ignore this week, the conditions certainly wouldn’t have suited them, which went some way in making my absence from the canal a little easier to justify. Today I was fishing for carp, using a waggler setup, on an intimate and interesting water. It wasn’t just any old carp I was after. Today I was after a carp of the grass variety, though for now I’d had precious little interest from anything at all. Still, the sun continued to warm my back and the fish would turn up, eventually. I was quite sure of that.

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If I do say so myself, I was fishing the waggler pretty damn well. One of those days when it seemed I could do no wrong. There was never any danger of a cast sailing into branch city. No tangles were waiting in the wings. I was able to get into a steady rhythm; cast, feed one or two grains of corn, twitch the rig after a time, leave for a bit longer, then repeat. Really relaxing and super simple. Two hours zoomed by without any sign of a bite, but I felt confident that there was nothing more I needed to do, other than wait. For the sun to swing around and the water to warm. The carp would follow. As predictable as finding a cat in a sun trap.

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As soon as any shadow had been dissolved, I had my first fish. Illuminated by the bright light, I could tell immediately this wasn’t a grass carp, a broad and deep flank flashing in the depths ,as it powered away for the sanctuary of an overhanging tree. A common carp; fin perfect and a very strong fighter. It certainly got my heart racing. The very next cast my cup of celebratory tea was interrupted by another bite, this time from a grass carp, and so began a much more sedate fight. Without much incident, the fish wallowed and lunged near the surface, making it quite easy for me to lead into the landing net. It was a great fish to catch and one I was really pleased with. Less so could be said about my next encounter.

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After releasing the fish, I topped up my half full cup of tea, and settled back down to fish. From the corner of my eye I glanced a mouse, with wings, hovering a few feet away. Except, obviously this wasn’t a mouse. This was the biggest hornet I have ever seen. I thought about screaming and running to the sanctuary of my car. I had visions of it, and hundreds of its friends, in pursuit of an angler, hurriedly heading for the barren fields distant horizon. The product of one too many horror films I dare say. I didn’t know too much about them at the time but the wise words of a friend have since put me right (thanks, Kev)! Turns out they are quite sedate. this one certainly was. It buzzed around for a bit, prospecting for a place to overwinter before eventually, five minutes or so later, flying off over my head and into the surrounding trees. A quite incredible insect really.

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It was now well into the afternoon, and with the sun less fierce, the fishing became much busier. A number of feisty commons found the sweetcorn too tempting. As did a rogue tench and another five grass carp. Today it seemed, the slower the hookbait sank, the better the chance of getting a bite. Bread attracted a smaller stamp of fish and the few pellets I had with me, ones I found stowed in the bait cupboard, didn’t even make it onto the hook. I had a fantastic time catching up with this not so widespread of fish species and I had caught plenty of better known ones along the way. Once you get past their ‘just a little bit off’ kind of look, they’re actually quite a sleek, and attractive fish. Embossed medallions for scales and pearly golden-brown hues. A worthy Autumn adversary, thats for sure.

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A quick note to finish for any perch reading; I have not forgotten about you just yet.

Thanks 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

Simple fishing for simple creatures (Entry 185)

This week I headed to a small lake hoping for a few tench and crucians. And, to be honest, anything that fancied making the sweetcorn I had with me part of it’s breakfast. This would be an unfussy trip out. Simple fishing with time taken to make sure everything is appreciated and noted. From the darting dragonflies I knew would be hunting around the pool to the delicate crucian bites preceding their jagged, powerful fight. I just had to hope that the early morning sun hadn’t put the fish off or sent them skulking under whatever cover they could find. Time would certainly tell, and even if this was the case, there would be plenty to entertain me.

Off the mark with a tench

In typical fashion the first fish of the day would be the smallest I’d catch. An immaculate little tench with eyes bigger than its belly. Two grains of corn proved just too tempting, the float disappearing with such velocity, I feared I’d hooked a carp. Thankfully it was an olive green bar of soap, which was quickly followed by another, bigger this time approaching a pound. A good start. No, a great start, considering how hot the sun. I was ever so grateful the fish were even feeding. However, after just thirty minutes, it was time for me to go back to the car and apply some sun cream. I didn’t much fancy ‘going tomato’.

Pick and mix?

In the interim the swim was rested. I returned smelling absolutely lovely (which is more than I can say most of the time), and settled back down to some fishing. A different species this time came my way. The unmistakable thumping of a hand sized crucian, fighting every inch of the way to the net, and still contorting its body whilst being unhooked. They certainly are little bruisers. But pretty little bruisers. Even in murky water, fins glow vibrant orange-red and flanks shimmer a rich, buttery gold.

Crucian imposter in the shape of a brown goldfish hybrid

For the next few hours the tench kept on biting, their domination thwarted every now and again by either a crucian or brown goldfish. Occasionally a rudd would show a liking for the sweetcorn. I can only imagine what a two pounder looks like in the flesh. These 6oz versions were pretty enough and made for something a little different. I really must try and find somewhere to fish for some bigger specimens soon before the winter is upon us.

The final catch ready to be released

I ended the day with a lovely mixed net of fish. The fish finally succumbed to the heat of the sun just after ten o’clock. The rudd drifted to the other end of the lake to bask, holding still as statues just below the surface, whilst the bubbling tench were finally filled. The swim became lifeless. Covered in tench slime and with the flask drained, I thought it time to leave, but not before I was treated to a sparrow hawk hovering in the adjacent field. On this occasion it seemed whatever had caught it’s attention had made best its escape and the sparrow hawk soon grew smaller as it flew silently towards to the horizon.

Thanks for reading and until next time,

NorthwestFisherman

Wind, sails, knocked (Entry 180)

Angling certainly is odd. I want to get that out of the way. I gave the crucian fishing a rest this week to practice a style that I love but have done relatively little of in the past year. When there is clear water, and the fish are moving, there is no better way to tempt a bite or two than sight fishing. Bait preparation consists of a trip to the local supermarket and tackle can be kept to an absolute minimum. Stalking your quarry is one of the most exciting, if not the most exciting, way to catch a fish. The spotting of the fish, the gentle persuasion needed to get them feeding, the cast and the take. Battles are usually quick and brutal or drawn out and nervous. Each thrilling in their own way.

I arrived at my chosen water late afternoon. The day had been largely overcast but even so carp, and all manner of weird and wonderful hybrids, could be seen cruising in the upper layers. This would be a good day. It had to be. Didn’t it? Well, the first hour was spent trying to tempt a crushing fish from the surface with bread. An hour which turned into two. Frustrating but fun. Even though there was not one point where a carp even looked like it was interested in my bread hookbait, 120 minutes vanished. So much for this being a good method for tempting a bite or two. Nothing in this pastime of ours is set in stone.

Macro-carp

It was now clear, after that tremendous failure, I needed to feed a few marginal swims, ones that I hoped would attract the attentions of fish that were actually interested in feeding. Queue the second bait; the humble sweetcorn. A small palmful was duly fed into four different swims. Then it was time for a tea. The perfect time to ponder and muse over what had happened and hopefully what was to come. Time passed and I was soon back checking the first swim. Wind, sails, knocked. The bait was still there! Untouched, unmoved even, laying precisely where the kernels fluttered to a halt at. This did not bode well.

The business end

I checked the second swim. Same result. In the third I spotted a group of three carp, one a ghost carp, move into the vicinity of the baited area. They hung nervously, one fish peeled away and came full circle, back to the rear of the group. The other two remained still. There was zero confidence in these fish. Simple as that. I began to concede that this was turning into one of those days where nothing aligns. Weather and water conditions. Atmospheric and angling pressure. All skewed. Past experience counting for little.

The cherry on top

That group of fish then disappeared into the deep water beyond without even a nibble at the bait. I patrolled between the swims for an hour or more but nothing changed. The bait remained. All hope of catching dwindled. I resigned myself to defeat and another cup of tea. Taking the hook from the retainer ring, a double corn cocktail was nicked onto the hook. I might as well have the bait in the water whilst I drained the rest of the flask. With a thunderous swoosh, I propelled the hookbait as far as its own weight would take it, and watched as coils of line pinged from the spool as the bait sank. It settled slowly. I imagined the sweetcorn coming to a gentle rest on the bottom, out of sight, out of mind. Slowly, I drank my tea and took in the scenery. A kingfisher zoomed past me. Damsel flies darted near to the surface. Even the sun began to poke through casting a warming orange glow over the landscape. Not such a bad day after all.

To complete the picture, as the last of my brew was consumed, the line unmistakably stuttered to life. Coils turned from loops to smooth vectors that pointed to an unseen culprit that had just taken my bait. Out of sight, of course.

Until next time,

NorthwestFisherman

It all got a little silly (Entry 179)

I enjoyed last weeks crucian fishing so much that another morning in pursuit of them seemed foolish to pass up on. Although I was more than happy with what I caught last week, I knew I didn’t fish as hard, or as well, as I know I can. I was far too concerned with simply appreciating everything I had missed in my hiatus, whilst the cobwebs were blown away, a little slower than I would have liked. This morning however I was going to devote one hundred percent of my attention to catching.

The first of the day

I started on a marginal line, after all it was still early, and I was certain this was where the crucians would be. As I rigged up, I kept my eye on the water, a few bubbles out in the middle emerged from some unseen source, and down at the other end of the lake a big crucian rolled, unmistakable in its smooth, golden swirl. Alarm bells sounded. Fish milling around further out than I was intending to fish and at the complete opposite end of the lake. Still, I decided to stay where I was and after plumbing up, fed a generous amount of bait, before threading on my sweetcorn hookbait.

The crucians keep coming

To my surprise I didn’t have to wait long for a bite. It came quite out of the blue so any anxieties had not been built by rafts of bubbles or suchlike. The float was simply there one second and gone the next. Actually more like a fraction of one. My strike met with solidity and the fight proceeded to play itself out. Within minutes my first two pound crucian of the day was on the bank. What a brilliant opener. I’ll never tire of how impressive they look. The next 90 minutes were slow but steady and a further five crucians fell to the yellow peril presented under a finely dotted float. It was going rather well, so I fed another pot of bait, and rested the swim whilst I drank a cup of tea. A tea that now tasted extra sweet.

Another fish on the bank

When I started fishing again, not ten minutes later, the float instantly sank from sigh. The bait could hardly have been settled for more than a second. It turned out to be the first of many of crucians over the next two hours. The sport was frantic, it was really quite unbelievable, so much so I will save the numbers until the end. I did lose a few fish to hooks pulls, when the bites became very cautious, but simply feeding the swim and resting it for a time sorted that out. The interesting moment came when the sun broke through the clouds. Until then it had been largely dull, and in the light breeze, quite cool. Once blue took over the lions share of the sky, and the heat began to noticeably rise, the crucians simply vanished. There was nothing I could do to try and tempt one. No change of hookbait worked. Nor did following the fish out and into the deep water beyond. No, this was it, their way of saying you’ve had your fill. Enough is enough. Get lost.

At just under three pounds

I couldn’t really disagree; 19 crucians banked with a further six lost. More than I could ever hope for in four hours fishing. Of the 19 banked, one fish hit the magical three pound mark, 10 were well over 2lb and the rest were upwards of 1lb 8oz, a truly ridiculous amount of beautiful, rare fish.

The last fish of the day

Thanks for reading and until next time,

Northwestfisherman