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

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

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

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

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

Persistence doesn’t always pay off (Entry 181)

June is over and, for one reason or another, I have not yet fished for tench. I love tench and all that comes with fishing for them. At least more traditional ways of fishing for them. Sure, they might not catch the bigger examples, ones that fall to bolt rigs or method feeders, but any tench hooked on float tackle will more than make up for this ‘lack of mass’ with their fight. What powerful and terrifying runs they make. I hoped that I would get to experience this, if only once, during a few hours float fishing in the margins. And I say traditional. I’ll hold my hands up now and say I left the centrepin at home. I even left the rod. Pole fishing is great for tench, allowing all the thrills of watching a float sway amongst pin prick bubbles, but also precise presentation. Invaluable when the fish are playing hard to get or the water is a pressured one. It does test your nerve somewhat when elastic streaks unstoppably from an increasingly arching pole but what fun.

Choice of pegs for me today

I arrived early afternoon to find a largely empty venue. Rain was forecast so after a quick lap I got settled into my peg. The water in front of me was deep, a good twelve foot and I plumbed up towards the bottom of the shelf, where the lake bed undulated least. A good amount of pellets and sweetcorn was then fed. Enough to hopefully attract, but more importantly hold, one or two hungry tench in the area. Then over a well deserved cup of tea and a biscuit I let the swim settle whilst the first droplets of rain began to fall.

Regular feeding of sweetcorn

I expected a slow start but just half an hour after feeding I had my first bite. A slow, drawn out bite, not unlike a bream, though from the amount of elastic currently melting from the pole, this was certainly no bream. In the deep water, the fish ploughed around, not only do you have to contend with their X and Y movements but also Z, surface bound for a few feet before burying down with their heads and making the ground back. With patience and a little luck the fish tired but not before a few last ditch runs were observed upon her noticing the landing net. My reward was a lovely, fighting fit female tench of exactly 4lb 8oz. A great start and lovely to catch a fish so early from a venue that I have struggled on in the past.

The business end of a pole caught tench

I re-fed the swim before dropping the rig back into place. There had been no bubbles. No line bites. The bite itself came from nowhere. With tench obviously present, I expected to see some signs of life in the swim, but forty minutes drifted by without much circumstance. That is until I changed hookbait from corn to pellet. No sooner had the float settled, and the hookbait come to rest, I found myself in another tussle. A much slower encounter this time, at least for the start, so much so I was sure that this time I had in fact hooked a big bream, until that familiar power took over. The fish ran much further than the first. It did so not just on one but on three occasions. Heart pounding. I feared the worse as the fish headed for the sanctuary of an overhanging tree. With the pole tip kept low and my toes crossed, thankfully, the fish made an about turn back out into open water. Now I felt much more confident. The power began to lessen. The fish began to tire, steadily rising up inch by inch, towards the surface before appearing, a gulp of air, and she was beaten. In the net on the first time of asking. This was a much better tench than the last and, at 6lb 6oz, a cracking fish to catch on the pole.

A 6lb 6oz pole caught tench

Then came the frustration. Missed bites. At least seven in 90 minutes. It was more like fishing for the tench of late August, when they’ve been pressured, caught a few times and there is an abundance of natural food at their disposal. They were ever so timid putting the crucians I have been catching recently to shame. I persisted. I concentrated. After all, the next bite could see me into an even bigger fish than the last. I day dreamed about such an event but the reality didn’t play out to match. I left happy with my brace of tincas but cursed the many missed bites. I may have hooked more on bolt rigs but I knew it wouldn’t have been half as much fun, and anyway, there’s always next time. As always.

Thanks for reading and until next time,

NorthwestFisherman

All I want for Christmas is tincas (Entry 172)

What a crazy winter we are having. I can count the number of frosty mornings so far on one hand. In fact, I could count them on the hand of one fingered man. I purged any thoughts of pursuing perch this week but I still fancied a challenge. What about a December tench? That sounds suitably silly. I set the alarm for a little before dawn, a lot later than a summers dawn raid after tench, and dreamt of olive flanked fighters.

Delicate float for today

I brought with me casters and worms, but due to the amount of tiny perch that are present, I would only be using worm on the hook. Chopping them up to feed in with the casters is usually the kiss of death. Unless you like catching tiny transparent perch one after the other. After plumbing up I fed a palmful of casters over a small area, and poured a cup of tea, drinking it slowly whilst the swim settled and watched the water. The surface was calm, the tall trees flanking the water protected it from the strong gusts that were already rattling through their canopy.

Kick off

After half an hour had passed, and with only a few tentative bites missed on caster, it was time to try half a worm. There must be something down there preventing the smaller fish from settling, I convinced myself, as I shipped out. The float had barely settled before it confidently sank from sight. On the strike, yards of elastic shot from the tip, and I was into a good fish. A powerful fish. Most definitely a tench. What a ridiculous situation. Grinning from ear to ear, I hung on as a confused tench bored hard, water boiling whenever it neared the surface. Patience saw me win the battle, with no snags in the area, it was a case of letting the elastic do its thing.

The rest of the morning passed quickly, a few small roach stole a worm almost as long as their body, and I waited for the onset of the afternoon. My friend, the hungry robin, went some way in reminding me it was indeed nearly Christmas yet here I sat, expectedly, waiting for a tench to bite. A little after two o’clock the float stuttered to life once more and another brutish fight began. This fish felt a little bigger than the first, though it did come in a little easier, something I was not complaining about. It was not long before a deep bodied tinca was diving into the safety of the landing net. A brace of December tench, a proverbial two fingers to perch everywhere, who needs you to have fun. Nerve jangling, heart racing fun.

A brace of December tench

And it didn’t stop at tench. The last bite of the day saw me into a very heavy fish, for minutes I did not see the culprit, it was super quick in bursts and then turned to a dead weight, hanging in the deep. After ten minutes the fish neared the margin, more out of its own will, than any pressure on my part. There, just meters from my feet, rose a huge pike. Well into double figures, worm hanging from its top lip, hooked fair and square. That’s the last I saw of the fish, seconds later it spectacularly powered away, and didn’t stop. Amazingly the line did not snap, the hook simply pulled, as the elastic bottomed out.

Enough excitement for one day, I thought, time for home.

Thanks for reading,

NorthwestFisherman