Thursday, 30 August 2012

Dark and not proper

The plan was rush out of work, a quick change around then off to the Marsh for a nights fishing.  For once thoughts of Tench were on the back burner, I had a hankering to catch myself a proper Carp which is something I haven’t managed to do this summer.  Anyway, by the time I arrived at the Marsh there were five other cars parked up leaving only a couple of swims free.  I had a little stroll around but nothing inspired me, I was feeling a little mind fucked and craved a bit of peace and quiet.  I could have squeezed in but it just didn’t feel right.  So what next?  If I’d gone home I’d just drink too much so I decided to take a drive and check the puddle out.

As I drove I was aware of gloomy storm clouds approaching from the west, would I reach the lake before them?  No, it was a dead heat, as I opened the car door the first drops began to fall.  I sat in the car and waited for the storm to pass, there was a surprising lack of other anglers giving me plenty of choice which was a nice change.  The rain fell and fell and showed little sign of stopping anytime soon.  At one point it eased a bit so I thought ‘stuff it’ and began setting up on the end of a point that I hadn’t fished before.  Typically the rain fell heavier again half way through setting up but I continued.  I fished two rods, a boilie to a channel on my left and fake maize to the margin on my right, finally getting started around 1945.
By this time I was nicely wet so decided staying for the night was a bad idea.  Chances of a ‘proper’ Carp were minimal but I’d fish till about midnight and if I could just catch a fish or two that would be a result.  I had managed to forget a box containing my back leads so liners were pretty constant but I had to wait an hour for the first take.  A fish was hooked on the boilie but it dropped off almost straight away, it was turning into one of those days. 

The rain stopped, things were looking up.  I stretched out on my bed chair listening to the T20 final on the radio and at 2135 I had another take, this time on the maize.  Resistance was minimal and before long I brought a small Common over the net, the blank was saved and I had a smile of satisfaction.  Another hour passed, Hampshire beat Yorkshire in the final which went down to the last over, then the boilie rod rattled off again and another little Common brought to the net.  The puddle is a strange place after dark, despite the moon it was pitch black and visibility poor.  I’m not easily spooked but it was a bit creepy.

By midnight my wet gear and damp self were back in the car and heading for home.  I’d cleared my head and caught a couple but I’m not sure I’d really enjoyed myself?

Two days later I was loaded the car and headed off for a day session.  I still wanted to catch a proper Carp, the Marsh has a higher average size but was still packed as I expected.  I’d kind of intended to end up back at the puddle which does hold some good fish, if I could work my way through the smaller ones.  I had a full day ahead of me and would give it my best shot.

I didn’t roll up until about 0830 and was pleasantly surprised to find I was the only person there, which was a first!  With the pick of the lake I settled into another swim that I hadn’t fished before.  I had a nice overhang to my left and a channel to my right with a snaggy area across the back of the swim.  I fished boilies on both rods to begin with.  One was cast to the overhang over a kilo of pellets whilst I dropped the other in the channel with just a big PVA bag full of goodies.  I don’t really know why I fished like this but it seemed a good idea at the time.  I also had another rod set up with a just a size 12 hook tied to 8 pound line and two 10mm pop ups hair rigged.  I fed a few mixers, little and often, knowing full well that the Carp would come up for them.  I stubbornly wanted to catch them off the bottom to begin with, God knows why?  Maybe I’ll learn one day.  The day was a pleasant mixture of sunshine and cloudy spells, a nice comfortable temperature for once.

I only had to wait 15 minutes before the channel rod went and I was briefly attached to a fish which dropped off.  Although I’d remembered my back leads today I still had regular pulls and twitches on both rods.  Many times I was half out of my chair expecting a proper take to develop…but they didn’t.  However something did happen at 1030 which gave me a big clue, I hooked a Bream which flipped and flapped towards the net before dropping off at the draw cord.  Oh well.

By mid-morning I’d swapped the boilie rod cast to the overhang for the freelined floater and began a session of ineptitude and frustration, bordering on farce.  I hooked and lost three fish on the floater for no apparent reason, then another because I’d inadvertently put the anti-reverse on.  I’d also struck thin air on several occasions, mostly with the floater rod but also with the boilie.  There were still Carp slurping down floaters in front of me but the bigger fish seemed to be hanging back, just out of range.  I swapped the freeline rig for a paternoster and anchored a floater out where the fish were showing.  Around this time the boilie in the channel rattled off again and I bent into a better fish.  I played a nice Common over the net where it turned and trundled off on another run, I absolutely knew what was going to happen next and it did.  Second time at the net, the hook pulled and I just laughed.  That had to be the low point, it had to get better from here.

Minutes later the floater rod went and I hooked another fish which felt like a good un.  I thought things couldn’t get any worse but they did.  Something felt wrong, my Carp was on the surface in the middle of nowhere, my line was going to its mouth and another was going away from it into the snags.  I’d hooked a tethered fish, something I can’t recall experiencing before and I hope never to again.  I didn’t have a clue what to do but after a bit of swirling my hook pulled.  I suspect this left the fish still tethered but there was nothing I could do.   I began to notice the signs of bad angling around me, there was tackle hanging from trees and in the past I’ve seen people fishing snaggy areas with tackle that isn’t up to the job.  I’ve ranted about the stiff pole drag ‘em in brigade before along with the damaged fish I’ve seen. On the whole it’s a pretty good club and it suits me but it seems this type of water attracts this kind of angler as they don’t show up at the more challenging places. 

At this point I thought about jacking it in and going home but after a break for a brew and a fry up, stubbornness got the better of me and I resumed fishing.  I kept the boilie rod in the channel and baited the area with a couple of kilos of pellets, I wanted to use up a load of bait as I have other fishing on my mind now…  For my second rod I reverted to the freelined floater and soon had fish on the feed again.  It didn’t take long to hook one and this time it all went to plan and I drew a nice Common over the net, not a proper Carp but close.  After that I didn’t look back as Carp queued up to take the floaters, mostly Commons but also the odd Mirror.  Unlike the first half of the day none of them fell off, however all were smaller than I hoped.

Finally the boilie rod roared off once more, I found myself attached to a fish that was pulling back and felt a little bigger than the others.  The fish tried to gain the sanctuary of the snags but there was no way I was going to let that happen.  Soon it was boiling at the net and it turned out to be smaller than I’d first thought, another nice Common but still not a proper Carp.  That was it for the day, I’d caught a few and I’d enjoyed myself (eventually), that would do for now.

That may well be that for this summer season.  I may squeeze in another trip for scaly things but I really need to give the fishing shed a good sort out and start to gear up for the autumn and winter fishing for toothy things.  As usual I'm highly disorganised and it'll take time for me to sort things out.  I'm not an angler that can just pick up a rod for one species today then another species tomorrow and I admire those that can.

Andrew Strauss retired from all cricket yesterday.  He was a very, very good player as well as captaining the best England team I have seen.  On and off the field he was an absolute gentleman and a credit to the sport.  Unlike other mercenary, money grabbing, border crossing scumbags I could mention.  Anyone fancy a nut?

Monday, 20 August 2012

Summer holidays

It was another busy day in the summer holidays.  Madi, Isaac and I had walked through museums, mansions and a gallery.  We’d been in shops, through the market and had a burger so with all that behind us I needed a couple of hours of peace and quiet to restore my sanity.  Despite the children’s lukewarm response we were going fishing, no debate!

So in the late afternoon we rolled up at the puddle to find the car park deserted, perfect!  I wanted the children to catch fish so we headed for the first lake where the Carp are generally smaller but more numerous.  I fed with Chum mixers while I went through the process of setting the gear up.  We’d travelled light just a couple of bags, a net, unhooking mat, a whip and a rod.  The three of us would share this gear.  By the time we were ready to cast the swim was full of hungry Carp eagerly slurping down mixers.  It looked like a shoal of piranhas feasting on a carcass.  We just had to catch fish!

To save baiting up too often both set ups were rigged up with two pop up 10mm boilies hair rigged onto a size 12 hook.  Having been hammered all summer these fish are a little bit more cagey than they were in the spring but hunger and competition for food gets the better of them.  Madi wasn’t too bothered about the fishing to begin with but once Isaac had netted a Carp, she wanted to have a go.  Before I knew it both the kids had hooked fish at the same time and somehow I managed to get both in the net at once.  I didn’t get a look in to begin with as I was busy baiting up, netting and unhooking fish.  

 After a while the children decided to have a break which gave me the opportunity to have a fish for myself.  Like the last time I visited this lake I found it too easy, not my idea of fishing at all.  When the kids returned I tried to talk them into moving over to the other lake where the fish are a bit bigger but they were having too much fun where we were.  They soon resumed their positions of battering the Carp stocks and keeping me busy keeping them fishing.  Every now and then I managed to pinch a rod and catch a fish or two.  After a couple of hours of mayhem which included another “two fish in the net” occurrence and plenty of friendly sibling rivalry we’d had enough.  The family total was twenty four Carp, Madi caught the most and Isaac caught the biggest.  Best of all, all three of us had thoroughly enjoyed ourselves!
 A couple of days later the three of us found ourselves in north Norfolk with a tent and time on our hands.  Because we were camping only a few miles from the boat yard an afternoon on the water was a must.  The main motivation for launching was to simply take the children for a little ride around the broads however it seemed daft not to chuck a rod and a little bait in the boat with us.

It was a warm sunny afternoon but with just enough breeze to keep us cool and give the water a healthy ripple.  After motoring around for a while I steered into the leeward bank and dropped the mudweights.  First job was to mix a little groundbait and set up a feeder rod.  I left Isaac in charge while I prepared to light the stove and get the kettle boiling.  Unfortunately I’d managed to leave the lighter in the car so no stove and no tea…oh well.  It wasn’t long before the quiver tip started rattling and Isaac eagerly began to wind in a few small silver fish, mostly Roach but with the odd small Bream.  We shared the rod, Madi and I caught a couple too but Isaac caught the lions share.  
 We stayed put for an hour or so, Isaac would happily have stayed longer but Madi was all set for a change of pace so we upped the weights again and went for another slow cruise around the broads.  There were loads of waterfowl as usual but the harriers were conspicuous by their absence for once.  As the sun began to dip in the sky we pointed the boat back towards the slip and headed back.  The children had enjoyed their afternoon on the water and I’d loved sharing a special place with them. The day finished with dinner in a nearby pub with a welcome pint for me.

When I’d booked the campsite I hadn’t realised how close it was to a lovely sandy beach so for the next couple of days the kids and I spent many hours relaxing there. The high tides coincided with the beginning and end of the day when the beach was at its quietest. This may have been why we were fortunate enough to see surprise visitors in the form of Seals swimming close to the shore. This delighted and excited the three of us and they even came close enough for a photo.

Sadly our week together came to an end and now I’m back at work. It was lovely sharing some of my favourite things with the kids and great to see them enjoy it so much.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Chasing Pussy, ....

…something I attempted frequently as a young man but I’d never fished for, or indeed caught a Catfish.  Why?  Well I could claim lack of opportunity but in truth there are a couple of waters that are fairly local and hold Cats.  Both are commercial Carp fisheries and therefore often crowded which is one of the things that has put me off.  Both of these waters have a low head of cats too so in reality, catching one from these would require a sizable investment of both time and money.  So do I want to spend a lot of time shoulder to shoulder with carp anglers and spend a fair bit of cash along the way?  No!!

My mind started to tick over recently when a customer brought in a leaflet for a commercial fishery in Norfolk which had a fair head of Cats and reasonable prices.  He confirmed my fears that the place got packed at weekends though.  However I had a little mid-week time coming so after consulting the good lady, I made a couple of phone calls, done a little research and began to make plans for my first attempt at Cat-fishing.

We rolled through the gates at about 4pm on a Sunday afternoon and had a little look around.  Toilet block, gravel roads and cut grass, not my sort of thing and I didn’t really feel at home but I could put up with this if it meant putting a Cat on the bank.  We found ourselves at the pool containing the Wels which looked much nicer than some of the others on the fishery which were little more than holes in the ground.  The Cat pool is about an acre in size, fringed with reeds and had some lovely Weeping willow trees which added character.  There were Carp showing all over, rolling and swirling but the water was like green pea soup and it was impossible to gauge the size of any fish.  The pool looked okay but there were about seven other anglers squeezed in, however most of them showed signs of packing up.  Shelley and I chose to fish at the western end of the lake beside a weeping willow.  The tree was an obvious feature but we were also as far from other anglers as we could get.  Fish of some description were fizzing out in front of me and Carp nosed around the margins.  The banks didn’t look too trodden so I hoped no one had fished this area over the weekend.  Most of the anglers that were about didn’t look particularly clued up, not that I am either when it comes to Carp or Catfish but I know not to charge down the bank and strike wildly at liners.

 So how should I fish?  I decided to hedge my bets on one rod fishing fishmeal boilies ‘snowman’ style with a PVA bag full of pellets and a handful of loose boilies.  This was fished on a 2.5tc Tricast rod and swung beneath the willow to my right.  This I hoped might catch me a carp but still give me a chance of a Cat.  On my second rod I fished a hair rig baited with two 22mm halibut pellets, tipped with a fake boilie.  Once again I attached a PVA bag full of various sized pellets and dropped this about five metres in front of the willow.  I didn’t put out too much loose feed at this stage as I wanted to wait and watch.  Shelley fished with her usual whip and maggot set up but bites were slow to come, I was hoping she’d be able to supply me with a few silver fish that I could use as bait.

It took me ages to get the bivvy set up and sorted as I was watching the water, looking for clues of what to do and how to fish.  Shelley showed no signs of catching any silver fish which cut out the livebait option.  The bailiff wandered round for a chat and recommended luncheon meat as a top bait for the Cats, sods law meant it was one bait I didn’t have with me but he kindly gave me a tin to try.  The sun was sinking slowly and most of the other anglers had departed, the rest were packing up so it looked like we’d have the pool to ourselves for the night, lovely!  I just had to decide how to fish.

I decided to stick with the boilie rod which I dropped into a reedy margin spot where carp had showed.  I walked round and baited up by hand with about fifty free offerings, that was one rod sorted.  With Shelley catching nothing on the whip we replaced this with another out and out ‘Cat rod’.  Incidentally the rods I used for the Cats were my most powerful Pike rods, both ten footers usually used from the boat; one of Dave Lumb’s Loch Tamer and a Fox Predator elite.  On both I had 50lbs braid and helicopter type rigs, hooklengths were made from either Fox Armadillo or Coretex.  Hooks were Kuro 2b barbless, for once I was complying with fishery rules.  Anyway, I fished two large Halibut pellets with a big PVA bag of pellets about fifteen metres out to an area where fish had been fizzing all evening.  Having read that Catfish are eating machines I baited this spot up with a couple of kilos of mixed pellets and a few boilies.  If I was lucky enough to catch anything I’d top up the bait.  The other rod was baited with a large chunk of luncheon meat and swung beneath the willow.  I put a couple of handfuls of pellets on top thinking it might help fish to find my bait in the soup like water.

Throughout the evening the indicators sounded as my lines tightened and fell slack.  I put this down to either liners or smallish carp trying to eat my too big baits.  I felt sure that should a Catfish take my bait, there’d be no messing about.  By this time we had the pool to ourselves but kept getting visited by strange locals, one carrying a large rifle along with a very skinny and very loud cat of the four legged, furry variety.  As the sky darkened our visitors departed and there was loads of fishy activity from leaping or rolling Carp.  There were also more sinister slurps and slaps that may have been Catfish feeding in the upper layers.  I can’t be sure but I suspect that’s what they were and I wished I had a livebait or even a bunch of lobworms out there.  It was a lovely starry night and we sat drinking tea, listening to the Olympic closing ceremony on the radio whilst chatting and putting the world to rights.  By midnight the closing ceremony had finished and the temperature had dropped considerably so we retired to the bivvy.  I was a little disappointed that the evening hadn’t brought me a Catfish and my confidence was low, what would the night bring?

The sleeping bag was warm and I began to slip away into sleep then all of a sudden an alarm was sounding a constant single tone “Showtime!” and I found myself scrambling out of the bivvy with shoes on the wrong feet.  The rod baited with halibut pellets had been picked up and I wound down into a fish that pulled back with power, it was apparent pretty quickly that I had hooked a Catfish!  There has been lots written about the fighting power of these fish and it hasn’t been exaggerated much.  To me the fight was like an Irish Pike of the same size but with more stamina.  When the fish went on a run it couldn’t be stopped and started off with a surge that juddered the rod tip in a manner that seemed strange to me.  I guess it was due to the long muscular fish tensing itself then uncoiling?  It was bloody good fun battling this creature in the dark and after a while I felt I was winning.  The loch tamer was doing its job, the runs became shorter and a long pale shape materialised over the net, I had my first ever Catfish!

The fish was as ugly as I knew it would be and actually very slimy but I was surprised by how well it behaved on the bank.  I’d read about the pads in the fish’s mouth but they were more ‘toothy’ than I expected, the gill rakers looked scary!  My hook was just in the corner of the mouth and I also removed another from the other side, along with a length of leadcore and several yards of line.  I weighed my Wels, no monster but a very pleasing weight for me, then Shelley reeled off a few photos.  One last look at this strange prehistoric creature then I returned it back to whence it came.  I then sorted out the mess, got the bait back out there and topped up the groundbait.  I’d got a Cat!  Result! 

Sleep didn’t come easily after that, although I was very tired my brain wouldn’t switch off.  I kept reliving the battle in my mind and hoped I’d get another chance.  Next thing I remember there was this sound and Shelley was murmuring, “was that your bite alarm?”  Then I heard that sound again and crawled out of my kip bag again to find a bait running buzzing away.  It was an un-missable take but somehow I managed to wind down into nothingness.  Had the fish dropped the bait?  Had I pulled the bait out of its mouth?  Who knows?  By now it was about 0500 and growing light so I recast the two Cat rods and topped the freebies up on both before returning to the comfort of the bivvy once again.

I managed a bit more sleep but all too soon it was 0800 and fully daylight; that would almost certainly be that fishing wise.  I began to think about getting out of the comfortable kip bag when another alarm sounded, this time it was the rod baited with luncheon meat.  By the time I reached the rod the alarm had stopped and the water boiled as a large fish made it’s get away.  I suspect a Cat may have somehow shed my hook and I’d missed another chance. 

After that I gradually began to tidy up our kit.  I cooked sausages for breakfast while Shelley had another try at catching something on the whip.  Eventually her persistence was rewarded and she managed to catch a couple of tiny Roach, maintaining her record of never having blanked but she is a fair weather angler!  I was very pleased that I’d managed a Catfish but I knew I could have had a couple more.  I’d learnt loads and now have more ideas of how I’d go about it in the future.  I enjoyed the whole Catfishing experience and I’m positive I’ll find the right time and the right place to have another go.  I now have a 100% record when it comes to chasing pussy but I wasn’t anywhere near that successful as a young man…

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Back to normal

After a month without wetting a line the good lady and I managed to find time to spend a night at the Marsh once again.  Although showers had been forecast we were treated to an all too rare dry, bright evening and what’s more there was only one other angler fishing.  I arrived first then Shelley appeared a few minutes later with fish & chips for supper.  It was an idyllic summer evening; all we needed now was some fish.

Swim choice was easy, I pitched up in the same spot we’d fished successfully a month previously.  In fact my methods were pretty much the same as last time too; feeder in the margins and a pop up boilie to the pads whilst Shelley fished maggots on the whip.  Before very long the float was dipping regularly and a procession of Rudd and Roach were being swung into my face for unhooking.  Bites were thick and fast on the maggots but my rods remained quiet, not that I expected anything else however I still felt fairly confident.  Unlike previous trips I’d baited up the boilie rod with around fifty freebies.  I’ve avoided baiting up with many boilies this year so thought I’d try something different.

Time past, daylight dimmed and the flasks were emptied.  We replaced the float rod with a method feeder baited with fake maize and a few pouches of maize catapulted on top.  We then chilled out counting stars and ducking bats.  Time passed, the temperature began to dip and the flasks emptied so we took refuge in the bivvy.  Shelley welcomed the sanctuary of the kip bag as did I but with one eye and two ears on the rods…

Daylight came without interruption, my disappointment at not having any action on the rods was balanced by the best sleep I’d had in ages.  I staggered out into the light, wondering whether to recast or not?  I decided to recast the feeders but leave the chod, which had landed perfectly.  With that hard work done it was back to the kip bag for a bit more sleep.  A couple of hours later I emerged from the bivvy feeling refreshed and as Shelley was still enjoying a lay in I had a little play with the whip.  Feeding with maggots and a little groundbait bites came thick and fast.  Mostly Rudd to begin with but by getting the bait down quicker I caught Roach and a few skimmer Bream.  By this time Shelley was up and about, roused by a fresh brew but was content to soak sun (yes sun!) and read her book. 

We tidied up in the late morning as the clouds to the west thickened and blackened, this proved a good decision as Suffolk was battered by hail storms an hour or so later.  After my Tench success of a month ago it’s back to normal again.  For some reason this time around I was just going through the motions assuming what worked last time would do the trick again but it wasn’t to be.  I hope I’ll have time for another trip to the Marsh this season and if I do I think I may do things completely differently.  Don’t tell anyone but I think I might have a go for the carp…

This internet thingy is a great tool for communicating and we anglers have certainly embraced this, after all if we’re not actually fishing then talking about it is the next best thing.  I log on to many forums for a read or a chat and some great friendships have resulted from this.  There are many good people out there but there are also some idiots who like nothing better than to wind people up.  There are also a few who do not deliberately set out to shit stir but manage to rile people through their stupidity.   I must confess to having a bite at the person on the PAC facebook page who stated that unhooking gloves are dangerous to Pike and anyone who uses one shouldn’t be Pike fishing, including me.  To be honest I rarely remember to use a glove but I should, to protect against the risk of Weils disease if nothing else.  Of all the things that Pikers should be concerned about I think a glove is a long way down the list, this bloke was just talking rubbish but apparently I “haven’t got a clue…”.  Once a few people had pointed out a few truths to the chap in question he disappeared with his tail between his legs…  Hooks probably cause more damage to fish than anything else, someone will be asking for these to be banned next.

Another thing that I’m finding annoying lately is angling magazines.  Oh God where do I start?  Well let me just blow it all out of the water from the beginning.  The magazines do not make their money from sales, no they rake the cash in through advertising.  The only products that get reviewed in the mags are those produced by the companies that pay for the advertising, therefore nothing ever gets a bad review through fear of upsetting those splashing the cash.  So what is the point of the review?  It isn’t a review, it’s basically another advert!  Furthermore the majority of the feature articles are written by sponsored/employed anglers and are little more than long advertorials plugging their sponsors/employers gear.  Yes there may be some good advice and information within those pages if you look hard enough but don’t kid yourself that the primary function of fishing magazines is to drive the tackle trade.  Then there are the staged photos that I moaned about on the ‘Pike pool’ a while back….I won’t go on about that again.  I can’t remember if it has always been like that or if I’m just older and more cynical now, however I do know that Pike & Predators magazine in particular has become much more guilty of this over the last couple of years.  Since the death of its founder James Holgate, the accountants have taken over and a magazine that was once a good read is slipping badly This is no reflection on the editor Neville Fickling who I’m sure does his best, edits what he’s given and has nothing to do with the new policies.  James’ magazines used to stand out from the crowd, now sadly they’re just like all the rest.