Monday 26 May 2008

Tench and other strange creatures

The weather forecast had promised heavy rain and fresh easterly winds, far from ideal conditions. When I arrived at the pit around 5am it was gloomy with a bit of drizzle but not too bad really, in my book loads better than the flat calm, bright sun, baking weather that threatened to burn me to a crisp two weeks ago. Not only does this shitty weather put off a lot of anglers but I’ve done OK for Tench in gloomy, damp conditions in the past. At first glance it looked like I had the pit to myself but as the sleep cleared from my eyes I began to notice a few green bivvy domes dotted around, one of which was in the swim I fancied, typical. I wandered down towards the shallows, I hadn’t planned to fish there because I figured the fresh wind would stir the water up and make life uncomfortable for the fish, (that was the theory at least) but another green dome put that one out of the question anyway. Walking back towards the car I noticed that the first carper I’d past, fast asleep under a pile of sleeping bags, had both his rods pointing across his swim and to the left. His lines were aimed directly at a group of lily pads which were right in the centre of the next peg. So in effect he was camped and asleep in one swim while his baits were in the one next door…Why? Strange creatures carp anglers. I eventually settled on a nice looking swim with overhanging willows on the near bank, Norfolk reeds on the far and a scattering of lilies in between. The only problem was, I had to fish from a wooden platform and I don’t own a rod pod, nor will I ever! Yes I can see a use for the things, especially when fishing from wooden platforms, but I’m far too tight to buy a piece of equipment which in reality, I’ll only actually need once or twice a season. I can remember years ago when I still fished for Carp, the very first rod pods were made by Gardner I think. My mate and I were happily fishing when some bloke appeared and began to set up with his fancy new pod. He told us we were doing it all wrong because our rod tips weren’t level, I asked him if the fish knew and he looked as confused as we were. Strange creatures carp anglers.

Anyway I improvised and jammed my rod rests into the gaps in the wood and was soon fishing. I chucked a method feeder across to the far bank, dropping just short of the reeds and dropped a helicopter rig with a PVA bag close in by the lilies. Hook baits were 8 or 10mm boilies with some fake corn or pellets, the method mix was the seed concoction and in the PVA bag I had a mixture of 5 or 6 different types of pellets. I’d had loads of liners on the previous trip so I clipped on a back lead on the close range rod, such sophistication! As I am the worlds worst Tench angler I settled down out of the rain, into the comfort of my little pop up bivvy to await the inevitable blank. However after only half an hour the method feeder was away and I was out in the drizzle and into a lovely little male Tench which was in perfect condition. In fact it was so perfect I took a quick photo of it trying to jump off the unhooking mat. Half an hour later the same rod went again and I had a repeat performance with another pristine little Tench. Another half hour passed and I was still getting attention on the method feeder with little twitches and pulls but the close range rod hadn’t even bleeped. Just as I was thinking of changing, off it went and I was briefly attached to another Tench before it shed the hook and left me playing a lily pad…bugger!
Things slowed down for me after that but I was kept entertained by the strange behaviour of the carper just down the bank, who judging by the commotion, had finally woken up. As I’ve said he had his rods pointed at a bed of lilies, surely an obvious target, so why did he feel the need to cast a marker float next to them? A couple of minutes later I heard an unfamiliar sound and looked round to see this strange black thing purring across the water. Now I’m not entirely positive but I’m fairly sure this was one of those bait boat thingies. Unsurprisingly I don’t own one myself and in general I turn my nose up at the things but I have to concede there are situations where I could justify using one. Fishing next to a bed of lily pads at a range of about twenty metres is not one of them however. A few minutes later I was treated to a repeat performance but this time the carper cast his marker to the far bank!!!!! (Why??) Before sending his highly expensive, little remote controlled toy a full twenty five metres to drop his bait with a flash of blue lights. At the risk of sounding like Victor Meldrew, I could not believe it. Granted the far bank position was a little more difficult but it was no harder than the cast I’d been making regularly all morning and I’m far more used to chucking out lumps of dead fish for Christ sake! The only possible excuse I could think of was he could perform virtually all of this without leaving the comfort of his bivvy for more than a few moments. Strange creatures carp anglers.
Just before 10 am the method feeder roared off again and I found myself attached to another Tench. I managed to keep the hook in this one and it was slightly larger than the first two being a female. I decided it was like Kylie, small but perfectly formed. I’d managed to forget to bring a spare bag of groundbait so was forced to switch this rod over to a PVA bag rig. Over the next hour I had a couple of twitches on this but no proper takes. By eleven o clock the rain had increased to the extent it was becoming uncomfortable and according to the radio the weather was dry in Manchester and they were playing cricket. It was high time to pack up and enjoy the cricket from the comfort of my own home.
So that’s four Tench landed from two visits which is an unprecedented success by my standards. All very nice and enjoyable but so far the fish are all small and I’m wondering if the bigger Tench, which I know are present, inhabit different areas of the pit. Or maybe they aren’t going to be fooled by my very crude approach. Interesting fishing, just a shame I won’t have time to try and find out for another week or two.

Wednesday 14 May 2008

Carp fishing

Originally written August 2007

Nothing! Not a touch, not even a Tench. Another Carp-less night passed and the August day was dawning bright and clear. The Carp in this gravel pit were notoriously hard to catch but when they did grace your net, as one had mine earlier in the season, they were big mirrors with stunning scales and colouration. Well worth the effort.
I rebaited and recast, more in hope than expectation. The left hand rod was an easy 60 metre cast to the edge of an island but the right hand rod was more difficult. The distance was about the same but there was no margin for error. The spot was a tree shaded gully between two islands which lead away from the bank at a right angle. I was attempting to put a bait into this gully from an angle, it was like trying to cast into a door that was slightly ajar. Too far to the right and my line would tangle in the trees on the nearest island, to the left and it was featureless open water. For once everything went perfectly and my rig landed on the edge of the trees on the far island. If ever a cast was worth a fish then that one was.
Settling back in the bivvy it was hard to feel confident despite the array of tackle around me. Rods, reels and bite indication, all state of the art and by no means cheap. The bolt rig I’d just placed in the gully was the latest self hooking device and that just left the bait. I’d lost confidence in the fishmeal concoction that had been successful earlier in the summer and had produced another using ground dog food. So far the Tench had developed a taste but not the Carp. Should I have persevered with the fishmeal?
Time ticked by and the pit was beginning to get busy with anglers arriving at normal hours, some were friends who stopped by for a chat before finding a swim of their own. It seemed as if my chances of a fish were passing but out of the blue the alarm sounded on the right hand rod, signalling a steady take on the bait cast to the gully. The rod took on a nice curve and the fish felt heavy, this wasn’t a Tench! I pumped the fish back towards me, it hugging the margin of the adjacent island. I bullied it away from a bed of lilies and soon had it plodding up and down the margin while a crowd of friends gathered behind me. Before long my Carp was safely in the net. There it was, the most beautiful fish I had ever seen, with a deep purple back and bronze flanks decorated with an almost perfect row of gold sovereign scales. She was perfectly proportioned with flawless fins and the icing on the cake a new PB! My friends dwindled away with a mixture of “well done mate!” and “lucky bastard!”, the sun was shining bright and everything in my world was perfect.

That was in 1982, Kevin Maddocks had only just published “Carp Fever” and we really couldn’t believe a hair rig could work……could it? The multitude of rig bits and gadgets anglers take for granted today was non existent. Lots of what we had to use was modified or home made. My state of the art gear consisted of; 11 foot glass fibre North Western SS6 rods, Mitchell 300a reels and the original Optonic alarms, without volume control. We did use monkey climbers but they hadn’t been given that name as of yet. Boilies were home made because they had to be, trout pellets or dog biscuits crushed and mixed with milk powder. Richworth was still a few years away and surely only noddies would buy them? Balanced baits? Pop ups? Unheard of! My bivvy was called a ‘brolly camp’ back then and consisted of a large green sheet of wavelock material, shaped to fit over an umbrella. My chair was a humble and very battered folding garden chair. All of this I transported a mile and a half on my bicycle.

A couple of days ago I went back in time and fished successfully for Tench with corn and the lift method. I also managed to catch a Carp, the first double in my net since I stopped fishing for them in 1993. She was a strange looking fish, (and this will sound daft), she had a miserable look on her face. Probably expected to end up as bait! However she was almost a fully scaled mirror with large plate scales lining her flanks and a real cracker otherwise. I caught her on a floater fished on a simple controller rig, another method I hadn’t used in years. It was nice to catch a Carp again; I’ll have to do it again sometime. Oh and the fish at the beginning if you’re still interested, weighed a massive 11lbs 15ozs!

Tuesday 13 May 2008

Save The Broads

The Pike Anglers Club of Great Britain claims some of Britain's most important pike fisheries are under threat from plans to abandon sea defences and has launched a campaign to save the Norfolk Broads.
Proposals to allow the Upper Thurne system to be flooded by the sea have been discussed by the Broads Authority, Natural England and the Evironment Agency.
If they are put into action, the PAC fears Horsey Mere, Hickling Broad, the Martham Broads and Heigham Sound will be lost forever within a generation.
Whole villages and thousands of acres of farmland will also be flooded or turned into salt marsh.
PAC president Phil Wakeford said: "In 2007, we warned that historically important fisheries and nature reserves were at risk from proposals to cut sea defence budgets. Our worst fears have now been confirmed.
"While the Upper Thurne system is a unique fishery which has produced some of the biggest wild pike ever landed in the world, it also contains internationally-important nature reserves which are of key importance to over-wintering wildfowl.
"A number of villages will also be abandoned if this plan is given the go-ahead. We understand other options, including maintaining sea defences, were also tabled but rejected.
"We have today launched an online petition as the first stage of a campaign to save the Thurne and its broads. We call upon anyone who loves this unique environment to join us in the fight to save it."
The petition can be found on the Ten Downing Street website at
Three record pike, each over 40lbs, were landed from the Thurne system, inspiring generations of pike anglers to visit Norfolk. Pike fishing remains an important revenue earner for the county, along with bird watching.The 2500-strong Pike Anglers Club has campaigned to protect the pike and pike fishing since it was formed in the Fens 30 years ago. Last year it played a leading role in a successful campaign to save the Cambridgeshire Lodes.

Monday 12 May 2008

Spring Tench and Commercial moans

My first session in the spring of 2008 was in late April for Tench and Bream at a local commercial fishery. The weather was cold, vegetation sparse and the pit looked bleak, crowded and ugly. I blanked and was glad to leave, vowing never to return. That type of water is fine when the indicators are moving but horrible when you’re blanking. I’m too used to fishing rivers and hardly seeing a soul all day so having to put up with every shouted word of every conversation between two half wits on the other side of the pit is bound to pee me off. Commercials are great for people who want to step out of their car, into a peg and just catch easy fish but to me they’re just sterile holes in the ground. For me fishing is about soaking up the countryside and chilling out in peaceful surroundings. So commercials are not my cup of tea at all really but great in the sense they attract all the types of angler I want to avoid and leave the wilder places less crowded.
Yesterday I fished a pit that I first fished nearly thirty years ago, one I hadn’t visited for about fifteen years. When I think about it, it was this water that set me on the road of so called “specialist angling” but that’s another story. In the mid eighties I caught some lovely Carp and Tench here and it was the latter species I dabbled for this time around. The pit has changed beyond recognition since I first fished it and after a reccy the previous evening I settled into a nice shallow bottleneck at 5am. On the far bank were thick beds of Norfolk reeds, years ago this would have been a sixty yard cast but now silt encroachment means its less than half that. Too my right was a small island surrounded with shallow weedy water.
I fished my usual light subtle methods; i.e. two method feeders! One was baited with a tuna fishmeal mix, this was cast across and dropped about five yards short of the far bank, in clear water. On the other rod I used a seed and fishmeal mix and under armed this to the gap between the island and near bank on my right. Baits were small boilies of various flavours and fake corn, I experimented with flavours and lengths of hooklength as the day wore on. From the very start I was getting twitches and line bites, there were obviously plenty of fish in the area, many of these turned out to be carp that were getting ready to spawn. I had total confidence in the method mixes because up until very recently I used to make groundbait for a living. The tuna mix is tried, tested and successful but not on the market (a long story……), the seed mix is very much a work in progress.
In many ways it was a frustrating morning as I struggled to convert interest in the method balls into hooked fish. Scaling down to 3kg fluorocarbon hooklengths resulted in hooked fish but no good when the hooklength breaks!!!! That idea was binned straight away. I kept ringing the changes and set up a float rod fishing a single grain of corn in the near margin. This worked with a hooked Tench but this too shed the hook. I switched the right hand rod to a helicopter rig and a PVA bag full of small pellets, probably my most productive Tench method in the past, and eventually I was rewarded. The culprit was an irate little male Tench that would have weighed about three pounds but had the attitude of a much larger fish and didn’t know when to give up.
By mid morning the sun was high, the water flat calm and good sized Carp were trying to flatten the reed beds while they spawned. I’d had enough but had thoroughly enjoyed myself. The surroundings were nice, pretty and not too crowded. The fishing was interesting and I learnt a few things along the way. Firstly I have to be fussy with my bait presentation in future, what works on a heavily stocked commercial ain’t going to work in more difficult circumstances. I should also stick to the PVA bag & pellets method on at least one of my rods and lastly keep an open mind!