Sunday, 13 May 2018

Fruitless Normality


I’ve had another couple of trips to the Valley since that Carp pulled my string.  The first was an attempted repeat of that initial success, fishing the same swim with the same methods on a cold, breezy evening.  The day had been warm and bright but by the time I got to the water in the evening it had changed completely, taking me by surprise.  The water was so choppy I could hardly see my float and most of the time I had no idea what was going on with it.  The boilie rods didn’t move either; I blanked and to misquote Fred J, was glad when I’d had enough.

A week later and the weather had been hot for a few days, I decided to take to the water and launched a punt.  The lake was gin clear beneath me, with new weed growing quickly I rowed slowly along the lake, noting clearer areas and looking for fish.  Through the polaroids I could see dense clouds of silver fish and tell tale splashes in the reeds told the tale, these fish were starting to spawn.  Pike were also in attendance, smashing into the spawning Rudd and Roach from time to time.  There was a spot I fancied and without anything better to go on I tied up and began fishing.  A pop up boilie was swung across to an overhanging tree and baited with a few pouches full of pellets.  On a second rod I float fished corn over some Expo close to the punt.  Float fishing for Tench from a punt, does fishing get more idyllic?  Well yes, actually catching one would be a massive improvement!  I’d not long started when two good sized Carp cruised by then vanished into deeper water.  This gave me a bit of confidence but I didn’t see them again.  Despite the spawning going on around me I caught Rudd and the occasional Roach steadily, so much so I considered switching to a fake bait to slow things down.  Instead chucking the rig up a tree brought things to a full stop.

The weekend came around again and with an afternoon free I drove into the Valley again.  I wanted to get out in a punt once more; with a bit more time surely I could find some fish?  The weather intervened with light rain, turning to steady rain, becoming heavy rain and I spent the time huddled under the oval, staring at motionless indicators.  My rods were sat on a pod which in theory should be straight and kind of symmetrical but never is.  Every now and then the rain would ease and I’d wind a boilie rod in and chuck out the float rod.  Rudd of all sizes were hammering the sweetcorn which rarely made it anywhere near the lake bed and I soon got bored with catching them.  Today I didn’t know if I was within a mile of any Tench or Carp.

After a flying start my warm weather fishing has settled into fruitless normality.  Searching for a handful of Tench and Carp in twenty odd acres of weed and snags is just the kind of daft fishing challenge I like.  To be successful I either have to have everything in my favour so I can locate some fish in a place I can reasonably fish for them; or I have to be incredibly lucky. Or both.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Wet Air



I left home around midday and after a quick pit stop at a tackle shop, arrived at the water about forty five minutes later.  The Charlatans had been playing in the car but as I walked to my swim Skids “Into the Valley” was whirling through my head, something about the venue?  The day was horrible, murky and damp which had already brought a change of plan.  I had wanted to fish from a boat but this was not a day for being exposed to the elements, even though I wouldn’t think twice in winter?  So once again I was fishing from the bank and found myself putting together a rod pod of all things!  There was no science behind my swim selection, I picked the most unpopular, least fished one on the lake but a wise friend had tipped me off to some good fish coming from here in the distant past.  Whatever happened at least I’d enjoy the peace and quiet.

I’ve named this water ‘The Valley’, for reasons that are obvious if you know it but hopefully you don’t.  It is home to a small number of large Tench and a handful of Carp but is stuffed full of silver fish which will demolish a carpet of particle baits in no time at all.  Two years of persevering with this approach has been fruitless so I have reluctantly decided that my best chance of a big Tench is to use methods more suited to the Carp, basically large 8 to 11mm pellets and boilies.  I’m aware of a couple of other anglers that target the Carp on this water but it doesn’t suffer from the type of angler that ‘carp waters’ attract.  I won’t have to listen to monotonous rambling about the cost of the latest ‘Basia’ and I won’t have to hear what Danny Fatarse has said on his new DVD.  Best of all, none of the fish have silly pet names.

I spent some time casting a bare lead around to check for weed, muck and other obstructions, after landing nicely a foot short of the far bank I clipped up and marked the line.  By 1315 I was fishing with a couple of rods; I swung a helicopter rig along the margin to my left where it landed in the shadow of a bush.  This was baited with a fishmeal boilie tipped with fake corn and fished on a 5” hooklength.  I baited the area with a few handfuls of mixed pellets and ten boilies.  On my second rod I used the dreaded chod rig and baited it with a pineapple pop up, this was cast to the far margin then I used my newly acquired catapult to spread about twenty boilies over the area.  So now to my third rod, I could have sat it on a buzzer but fancied something different so used a waggler set up and fished corn at the bottom of the marginal shelf.  I put five tennis ball sized lumps of Expo in and sat back to wait for the inevitable assault by the silver fish.

The afternoon was unpleasant enough for me to give the oval brolly a rare outing, it was a horrible overcast day with a north westerly wind whipping in the kind of drizzle that you barely notice until you realise you’re soaked.  I decided it should be called ‘wet air’ which reminded me of an essay I’d been given at school about thirty five years ago, “the disadvantages of having wet hair”.  It was raining and my hair was wet so the teacher sent me into the corridor to dry it, when I returned he punished for me for being late.  Teachers were able to get away with being sadists in the eighties and this bastard really had a chip on his shoulder, perhaps being christened Stewart Blewett had something to do with it?

So with everything sorted I relaxed under the oval and enjoyed the sights and sounds of the East Anglian countryside.  Skylarks were in good voice and I enjoyed watching Swallows and Martins for the first time this year.  The drizzle came and went, the sky brightened up for a time and something fishy splashed on the far bank but what?  My float had dipped slightly a couple of times but I’d been slow to react, now it was mostly motionless which was a surprise.  An hour passed in blissful tranquillity, the only sound was bird song and the drone of bees.  There seems to be loads of bumbles about this spring which can only be good (not to be confused with Bumble, there is only one David Lloyd).  I heard my first Cuckoo of the year and saw it on the wing later in the afternoon.  A Warbler perched in the reeds almost within touching distance but I knew it would be pointless reaching for the camera and I’m not sure of the variety; Willow, Sedge or a Chiffchaff. Meanwhile the alarms were still silent and the float only gave the occasional half hearted wobble or dip, when I remembered to look at it at least.

At around 1445 an alarm beeped… and then again… a liner?  Was my line was tightening?  Then ‘Beeeeeeeeeeep…’  I found myself with a bending rod in my hands, it was the pop up cast to the far bank and I was gaining line on something kiting to my right.  The occasional surge took line from the clutch so whatever was on the end had a bit of power too it.  I realised I had a proper shake on and a thumping heart, it’s been a couple of years since I’ve had a rod roar off like that and I’d been totally startled. In comparison a Pike makes off with the bait in a far more gentle manner and my heartrate increases gradually.  As the fish came closer so it rose in the clear water and I saw that, inevitably, it wasn’t a big Tench but a long Common carp that had the bright yellow pop up clearly pinned to its lower lip. Still I was nervous because I was yet to land a Carp from the Valley and I really wanted it in the net, I was glad I’d brought the proper 42” one too.  After a bit of typical marginal plodding the fish rolled over and I managed to draw it into the net, where it stayed while I got mat, scales and camera ready.

The hook popped out easily and despite being quite a long fish the scales told me the fish was a couple of pounds lighter than I’d expected.  Usually I have a plan for self take photos but had been so confident this afternoon that I hadn’t bothered.  This partly explains why the pictures were poor, also Carp are a bugger to hold, I keep wanting to slip my hand up the gill.  With the fish returned I recast the rod and pulted out a few more loose boilies, then sat back with a satisfied grin.  This fish would not raise any carp angler’s eyebrows, most would hardly look twice at it but the whole experience thrilled me and that’s why I go fishing.

I’d love to be able to report that I’d finally cracked the water and this was the beginning of a dream session of hauling in Carp and Tench but of course this wasn’t the case.  That was it for the day as far as fish were concerned as not even the float rod brought any proper bites.  Nonetheless I enjoyed the afternoon in the countryside though it was mostly spent huddled under the oval out of the northerly drizzle, with the occasional chat with the friendly neighbour who’d joined me.  A pair of Buzzards circled though not on thermals, it was too cold for that.  A Sparrowhawk whizzed by and landed in the bush a few feet to my left, this time I did manage to get the camera out but the result was… well, crap.  I didn’t have a good camera day.

I had intended to fish well into darkness but by 2000 the temperature had dropped considerably, I didn’t feel confident of catching anything else and to be honest I’d had enough.  As soon as the oval was packed away the drop in comfort levels was considerable and for once I didn’t dawdle when packing the rods away.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Turnaround


Spring turnaround has arrived, the day every year where the winter Pike gear gets stashed at the back of the shed and the spring and summer stuff gets moved into pole position.  Last winter had seen unwelcome rodent lodgers who chewed their way through buckets and pots before they succumbed to the poison.  When I discovered this, sometime back in the cold, dark months I’d only done a quick patch up job so I had a bit of extra sorting to do now.  In the end my shed turnaround took around four hours which is about normal though I’m sure I spend half of this time scratching my head and frowning. 

At least the sun was shining and the birds were in full voice, at last spring is here in more than name only.  The last few weeks have been gloomy and very wet, the farmers are worried, something about having the crops down before the cuckoo calls?  Once I was finished I was due to set off fishing but where and for what?  I plan to concentrate on the Tench in the ‘Valley’ this year but if I’m going to try for a big Roach from the big water then now is the time.  I couldn’t decide so hedged my bets and put two set of rods in the car then set off to buy a load of bait to get me through a large chunk of the warm season.  With this done I still hadn’t made up my mind, when I got to the junction it was decision time, in the end I turned right, for Roach.

From the car park it was obvious straight away that the water level was much higher than this time last year.  It had been like this two years ago and we’d caught some cracking Roach here, unmissable bites on helicopter rigs. Last year the water had been low and clear, the fishing had been difficult and the bites very finicky.  With the bright sunshine I couldn’t believe what I was doing, I was sure I’d be sitting behind motionless rods for a while, waiting for the sun to dip.  Whatever happened I’d be chilling out in a quiet corner of the countryside, as I walked to my swim the hedgerows were all buds and blossom, there was a constant drone of bees and the birds were in full voice.  At the bottom of the bay the Swans were nesting in their normal place, unconcerned by me walking past.

I was fishing by 1630 using two open end feeders fished with short hooklengths on helicopter rigs.  I’d found a bag of groundbait that had been in the bottom of the freezer for months, this would have to do.  Hookbait was red maggots; three on a size 16 on one rod and two on an eighteen on the other.  For the first time in about six months I sat on my comfortable fishing chair and relaxed with a brew behind two rods, bank fishing is such a novelty at the moment!
I was sure I’d have to wait a couple of hours before anything happened but to my surprise I started getting bites straight away, not just taps and rattles either, proper bites that even I could hit!  For the next ninety minutes I caught fish steadily but all around 4 to 6 ounces, no sign of the bigger fish from two years ago.  It was fun though and at times I couldn’t keep two rods in the water, I picked a piece of corn out of the groundbait and stuck this on the size 16 with the intention of concentrating on the other rod but by this time the bites had all but stopped.

The lull in fishy action gave me the opportunity to take in the sights and sounds; the high trees seemed like transit stops for the Wood Pigeons, on their way to plunder whatever was growing in the surrounding fields.  The water itself held the usual cast of Mallards, Coots and twice a Grebe surfaced in my swim seeming confused to find me there.  As did the Otter that poked it's head out and dived again arse upwards a rod length away, these things are supposed to be rare.

The second ninety minutes saw just three bites and one Roach landed but I was confident of more action as the sun dipped.  Sure enough between 1930 and 2000 it was all action again but there was still no sign of the bigger fish.  I’d ran out of groundbait so had to switch to maggot feeders but this didn’t seem to matter.  Then it all abruptly stopped.
I fished on for another half an hour; my tips were still clearly visible without need for a head torch but unfortunately they were no longer moving. 


Somewhere in the trees a Tawny let out it’s unmistakable call and for the first time this year I was able to watch bats showing of their aerobatics.  After the cold, sodden, drawn out winter spring is here at last!

Monday, 26 March 2018

Score draw


I can’t remember a March that has been as cold as this one, it’s been brutal but eventually milder weather arrived.  With Pike time and opportunities running out it was even mild enough to tempt Isaac out of bed at an early hour.  We’re a little slow getting underway and Isaac is virtually mute on the journey but eventually the mug of tea in his hands does the trick and he’s almost awake by the time we reach the water.

We only have a few hours so I went for a long row with the intention of fishing our way back to base throughout the morning.  We dropped the weights in a narrower, shallower stretch, flanked by thick reeds.  It looked and felt right for the time of year.  With our baits scattered about the swim we got settled.  The wall of reeds sheltered us from the southerly wind, Isaac was still quiet but had his headphones on and was nodding to the music, Kendrick Lamar apparently.  He was lost in his thoughts and totally unaware that one of my floats was on the move and stayed oblivious until this small fish was splashing by the boat.  This brought surprised laughter and the volume came down a couple of notches.

With Isaac now in the land of the living conversation and laughter flows and half an hour passes in no time before we are interrupted by a Pike.  My rod again and this time a better fish which deceived me but in the end it didn’t need the scales and was unhooked in the water.  Dad 2 Isaac 0 I’m in the lead so not getting any ribbing but I’m desperate for him to catch!  Forty five minutes later and just as we were discussing a move another of my rods is away and soon after another nice fish is unhooked in the water.  I didn’t have time to recast before it was Isaac’s turn at last.  As soon as he set the hooks the Pike ran towards him which took him by surprise and the line went slack.  Isaac kept winding and somehow the fish was still on and in the net shortly afterwards.  As Isaac had no trophy shots for his efforts this season, this one did come in the boat for a quick photo.

Fifteen minutes later the boat was back to normal but not for long, Isaac was in again and mostly in control, certainly for long enough to be secured in the net.  This was slightly bigger than his first so warranted another quick photo.  Dad 3 Isaac 2.  That’s a nice score so I don’t feel too wicked in having a little wind up which is met with mock outrage and more laughter. 

After a quiet hour we have a move and this was rewarded with a take inside ten minutes, Isaac wound down quickly and this time played the fish like a pro, wiping out my early lead.  With time running out it could be a case of the next fish being the decider.  I fancied one more move but the mild weather had brought a few people out and our options were growing limited.  In the end we decide to settle for a draw and pack up a little early.  As I rowed back the verbals continued, I claimed victory as I’d caught the biggest fish but after some mental arithmetic Isaac declared himself winner with the highest weight.  His grin widened as I struggled for a comeback.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Only an idiot


So the weather had wrecked my plans but cabin fever had well and truly descended so I was determined to get out fishing at the weekend.  As forecast the thaw set in on Saturday, the roads were getting back to normal and the tide of whiteness was ebbing.  Sunday looked good, seven degrees would feel like spring after the last week and surely the rise in temperature would get the Pike moving?  The only potential problem was whether the boats would be iced in?
I set off with light already growing as I didn’t feel the need to be driving in the pitch black on roads that had been impassable a few days earlier.  The main road was clear but very wet, there was still a bit of snow laying on the fields. 

Traffic was light and I cruised nice and steady, singing along to Weller.  I turned off the main road and the lanes were full of puddles, snow piled ominously high against the hedgerows.  As I went further the lanes were narrower and the snow piles ever higher and as it closed in around me I began to get a feeling of disquiet.  I arrived at the gate and had a careful look at the track, it looked okay as far as I could see but what lay around the bend?  There was only one way to find out and by the time I did so the track was covered in snow and I was stuck!  I got out for a look, it didn’t seem too bad and sure enough a bit of shunting saw me free again.  Thank fuck for that!

Now I had a decision to make with facts to consider.  The track ahead of me looked okay but just round the next bend, out of sight was a slope and after that still a good half mile that could be in any kind of condition.  There was nowhere to turn round so whatever I decided I’d be reversing out.  Okay it was all thawing so I’d get out eventually but that could take hours.  The only sensible thing to do was to reverse up to the gate, then turn around and go home.  Only a total idiot would try to go any further in these conditions.

So I put the Focus into first and proceeded towards the water; to begin with all was good, however half way down the slope the track was ominously white.  I still didn’t have the sense to go back and at that moment didn’t seem to be capable of doing anything other than keep going, as if in a dream.  Yes the inevitable happened, I got stuck and this time no amount of shunting got me anywhere.  I considered the facts once again; I was stuck in the snow on a farm track miles from anywhere.  I wish I could say this was a one off moment of madness but if I’m honest, ploughing on regardless of the consequences is typical for me.  I cursed my own stupidity and let off steam but all the bad language and hot air failed to speed up the thaw. 

As I sat behind the wheel a bird flew quickly along the track directly towards me, as it got closer it turned into a Sparrowhawk which looked certain to fly straight into the windscreen but lifted at the last moment and skimmed the roof of the car. All I could do now was wait so I opened the boot, found the flask and made a brew.  I dug out the camera and went for a little walk, snapping a Chaffinch in the hedgerow but too slow to catch the rabbits in the field.  The valley looked beautiful but I didn’t have time to capture it all before I heard the sound of an engine.  I met the friendly farmer at the track and we had a good laugh at my predicament.  He assured me that I was stuck in the worst part of the track which was all clear below and everything would thaw quickly.  He was less certain about the state of the water but thought it would be ice free.  With a bit of a push we got the car moving again, “Thanks!” and another good laugh. 
As I approached the water I kept stealing glances but didn’t like what I saw, the upper stretch was definitely frozen, as was the boat yard.  I had no option but keep going, whether I fished or not I’d have to give the track a couple of hours to thaw.  Thankfully I found plenty of ice free water further down so I would be able to have a go from the bank, even if my boat kit wasn’t ideal.

By 0800 I was actually fishing!  I chucked a Lamprey at the far bank, a bluey along the near bank to my left and fished a smelt on a paternoster.  This I cast as far as I could, with the intention of twitching it back a few feet every now and then.  I sat in my folding ‘L’ shaped boat seat on the damp ground but was comfortable enough and more than happy.  The morning had definitely not gone to plan but I was fishing and I was in with a chance.  The water looked lovely with its sleeves of snow and above me I could see blue sky and a glimpse of sun.  I couldn’t resist a laugh.  After half an hour the Lamprey was on the move and I bent into a fish.  It didn’t do a lot except kite to my left and there didn’t feel at all heavy.  Still after everything I was delighted to have a fish on the line and was pissed right off when it dropped off for no apparent reason.  Half an hour later the same float tremored and wobbled again but when I wound down there was nothing doing.

Another half hour passed, I’d just twitched the paternoster and by the time I’d fallen into my seat the smelt was on heading towards the estuary, I had to quickly scramble to my feet again.  This time I hooked the smallest Pike in the water but netted it anyway just to be certain that I could take a cheesy snow photo.  It’s probably just as well as the hooks fell out in the net.  This began a mad hour when the fish switched on.  I had a couple of dropped takes, missed one and lost another but also managed to land a couple more small Pike, both of these were very lightly hooked.

After an hour of inactivity I had a move and had just got all three rods out again when I noticed the Swans had broken off a big sheet of ice which was being blown towards me by the wind.  Five minutes later I was forced to move again.  By the time I’d settled it was midday and if the forecast was correct then I had an hour before a band of rain was due to reach us.  Sure enough the cloud was building and a couple of short showers blew through.  These were enough to convince that sitting on my arse in the rain wasn’t going to be much fun so for the first time this day I made a sensible decision and packed up before the rain got too bad. 

Thankfully the return journey was without incident, the farmer had been spot on, all the snow was gone from the track but the stuff piled high along miles of hedgerow will linger a while longer.  This is supposed to be spring and I was supposed to be in Norfolk!  Will there be time for another go?

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Arctic Bastard

"The beast from the east", what a lovely, media friendly name for our current winter storm.  What a load of bollocks.  Another tag line to use to sell more crap to fuckwitts.  Drum up some hysteria, hint that supplies could run out and people go mad.  To be fair this time it's a proper snowstorm, about six inches dropped on us overnight, which is the most snow we've had in one go for about six years.  I'm calling it the bastard from the Arctic but I don't suppose that's very media friendly.  Work was snowed off so I had an unplanned day at home, which was a pleasant surprise.

The lady and I went for a walk into the whiteness in the early afternoon.  The town looked suitably quaint after the whitewash but we'd got our timing wrong and strolled headfirst into a blizzard.  The wind was raw and cruel, cutting through clothing and scorching any exposed skin.  I had my camera but could only click half a dozen pictures before my finger tips needed warming up and the gloves were back in place.  Halfway round the lake and the clouds blew over, the skies cleared for a while allowing the sun to light the scene.  For a few minutes it became almost pleasant, the birds were singing and many were boldly searching for food, coming quite close in doing so.  A Robin followed us, Blackbirds were plentiful, a Chaffinch posed for us.  There were a couple of Redwings and a Fieldfare, birds I wouldn't expect to see in normal circumstances.

Another day of snow and ice later, forget the rural roads the main routes are bad enough.  This leads to no school for the kids and no work for me again.  It's that frustrating situation where I actually have some time but can't really do anything with it.  I did consider going down the river for a few hours but in this weather that really would be idiotic.  All I seem to do is look at weather forecasts on TV and online, hoping for anything other than bad news and still being disappointed.  It seems certain that my plans for a weekend in Norfolk will have to be postponed, I won't have time to get up there again this season so my special fishing is done for the time being, Arctic bastard.  By the time I throw the Pike rods out on the Broads again my son will be at college and my daughter at university, I don't want to wish this time away.

With time on my hands I've read the latest Catch Cult magazine and read most of it for a second time.  CC is now a year old and has gone from strength to strength, we're now up to edition six which is probably the best so far.  My favourite articles this time are all written by Robs.  Mr Christian's unique writing style tells us of a magic session after Fenland Pike.  Mr Young describes his incredibly successful approach to Hampshire Avon Barbel, culminating in a river record.  Finally Mr Olsen takes us on a Mongolian adventure seeking Taimen and it's a proper angling tale.  Honourable mentions also for Dave Marrs' balanced look at the Angling Trust and James Hinley's fishing on the northern spate rivers.  CC1 to CC4 have all sold out but you can get hold of CC5 and CC6 by clicking this link http://www.catchcult.co.uk/current-issue.html

So with Norfolk off the agenda I have to have a rethink, I should be able to make it to the waterside for a couple more tries for Pike before the season ends.  Maybe when one door closes there might be a surprise behind another?

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Bog dwelling

I can’t keep away, even though the weather has been horrible; cold clear and frosty one time and then near gale force North Easterlies the next.  Still you have to be in it to win it and there is no finer place in the UK to spend my free time.  I love being afloat in the swamp with the sound of the birds, the wind rustling the reeds and every now and then the click of a baitrunner.  The hiss of a disgruntled otter is not so welcome but no longer uncommon, nor is damage to fish.

Sleeping in a boat at this time of year isn’t for the faint hearted either, nor for the sane on reflection.  But the huge flatland skies are spectacular at either end of the day and the stars on a clear night are mind blowing, how can we possibly be the only ones in all of this?  There’s plenty of time to ponder such things in the maddening winter darkness.
Yes I’ve been doing the same thing year in, year out for over a decade now but I’m still made to feel like a beginner.  There’s a spot I often pass through that looks and feels Pikey, I’ve fished it every now and then but never had any luck.  I dropped the weights there recently and had a couple of fish in no time at all but time was against me and I couldn’t stay longer.  I stopped there again on a subsequent visit, sure I would be into fish… but caught nothing!  That sums up the fishing here, at this time of year in particular, they’re here today but tomorrow they could be miles away.  That’s one of the reasons I keep coming back, it’s never boring and if I was able to work it all out then I probably would lose interest.