Monday 18 August 2008

What fishing is all about.....

I hate working weekends and five o’clock wouldn’t come quickly enough. The car was already loaded so it was just a case of a quick pit stop at home to pick up Madison and Isaac along with some supplies then we were on our way to fenland. Thankfully the weather was mild and dry so hopefully the evening would be a little more relaxing than our last venture. This time we were fishing in the company of Dale again and my old pal Giles who was bringing his two year old son Charlie for his first ever night in the fens.

We arrived at the river just before seven o’clock, Giles and Charlie were already settled and Dale was setting up. The first problem was a distinct lack of fresh bait as Giles is rubbish at catching it! With a bit of groundbait Giles started catching more regularly while Dale and I set about tackling up for the evening. The kids were supposed to be assisting with the bait catching while I sorted things out but the novelty has worn off and they were more interested in running around in the field and making a fuss of Charlie. By eight o’clock the tent was up, the kids were settled, the net was full of bait and we were ready to relax. I fished the same methods as last week, a ledgered livebait with a bait popper was cast upstream and a Paternostered live chucked straight out in front of me. The buzzers were turned up and the barbecue was lit.

Another friend, Chris joined us without fishing tackle, purely to socialise and thankfully the predicted showers stayed away allowing us to do just that. We watched the sun set and as the darkness descended, we ate a nice hot evening meal and the children settled into the tent. At this point of the evening fishing really was a secondary consideration, yes we had rods fishing and were tuned in to the slightest beep of the alarms but it didn’t matter if we caught a fish or not. The food was good and washed down with a bottle of wine as we chatted the evening away; laughing, reminiscing, theorising, putting the world to rights and generally enjoying each others company. Now this scenario, four blokes drinking alcohol and having a laugh while night fishing for predators on a pleasant summer evening might raise the eyebrows of some in the PC fishing police. I could reassure you that we were still fishing responsibly (which we were), but I don’t give a stuff what anyone thinks. Fishing is about enjoyment and relaxation and that is exactly what we were doing.
Around 9pm we were interrupted by a take on my upstream ledger rod which resulted in the first Zander of the evening, which would have weighed between five and six pounds. The sky cleared, the temperature dropped and the full moon illuminated the bankside, casting shadows; a Tawny owl was calling and still we laughed and talked. We were in general agreement that these clear, moonlit nights were usually unproductive for Zander. This led on to an interesting debate on whether moon-phases and other things trigger predators to feed and so on. This is what a summer night session in the fenlands is all about for me; fun with the kids during the daylight hours and a chilled out evening. I know it’s a horrible clichĂ© but there really is much more to fishing than catching fish.

Midnight came and went, the wine replaced by a boiling kettle and a hot mug of tea. A bank of cloud came up from the south west, obscuring the moon and almost straight away it felt warmer. We were certain that this change would switch the fish on and rebaited our rods with fresh enthusiasm. Sure enough within a few minutes Giles rod was away and another nice Zander was in the net. This was the first Zed he’d caught for about a decade (for a variety of reasons) so he was delighted.
Half an hour or so later it was my turn again, this time the paternoster rod was away and I pulled into a better sized fish. It thrashed on the surface in mid river and it was obviously my best Zander of the season so far. It was soon in the net and tipped the scales at 7.12, very nice. We toasted that fish with one last cup of tea before Chris headed for home and we disappeared under our respective shelters to get a bit of kip before daylight.
I was stirred by a couple of showers in the wee small hours but the next thing I knew it was six am and an alarm was shrieking. This time it was Dale’s turn at long last and he bent into his first ever Zander. He made short work of getting it in the net and at eight & a half pounds it was the biggest fish, of any species, that he has caught to date. His first Zed might remain his biggest for some considerable time!

After that alarm call the camp slowly stirred into life. The children got up and started catching fish on the whip, while I was in charge of cooking breakfast. At this stage of the morning we had a truly momentous event as little Charlie, aged 2 ½ caught his first ever fish, may it be the first of many!
With a clear sky and bright sun it seemed like the chance of action on the livebaits would be over for the day but at around 0830 my upstream ledgered livebait was snaffled by a little Jack Pike, small but absolutely perfect with stunning markings. I debated whether to pack the rod away but what the hell? On with another bait while I tidied the gear away. An hour later this rod trundled off again. I wound down expecting another Jack but no, not a Pike nor a Zander either. It was a Perch and a good fish too which weighed in at 1.12 making it my best of the season so far, I will have to learn how to hold these things for photos though! Soon the kids had tangled the whip rendering it useless and the gear was all but tidied away.
I’m sure I’m guilty of taking my fishing too seriously at times, especially Pike fishing in the autumn and winter but I love this summer nights chilling out in the fens. It was great seeing the kids running around in the meadow, catching fish and going home with mud on their faces. I enjoyed catching the Zander, Pike and that nice big Perch but equally it was great to see Giles grinning with his first Zander for years and it was lovely to see Dale looking at his fish with an expression that said “did I really catch that thing?” It’s more than half way through august now, the Test matches are over for the year, harvest is well under way and it feels like summer is really on the way out. I don’t know if we’ll have enough time for another night session this year but I hope so.

Friday 15 August 2008

he best Pike & Predator show in the world.....Probably

This year's PAC Convention takes on an international flavour, with two of Europe's top predator anglers joining a brace of British pikers on stage.
As well as the speakers you can browse all the latest tackle on the trade stands, pick up a bargain on the second hand-stalls, and catch up with old friends and new on what's always an unmissable day out.
So why not kick start your winter campaign with a trip to Piking 2008, which is being staged on Saturday, September 27 at the National Agricultural Showground, Stoneleigh Park, Coventry.
PAC promotions manager Mike Kelly said: "We started planning this year's convention almost straight away after Piking 2007, which was a record-breaking event for the club in more ways than one.
"We knew it was going to be hard to beat it, so this year we've gone for a varied line-up of speakers who share one thing in common - they're all extremely successful pike anglers you'll rarely get the chance to see.
"They all go about their fishing fish very differently, but one thing's for sure - they'll all knock you out with their talks and their catches.
"Michel Huigevoort will be travelling from Holland to share the Dutch style of fishing rivers.
He said: “I grew up close to the river Maas in the south of Holland. And after my very first pike the call of the river and the hunt for the biggest predator never went away."
Apart from pike fishing I like fishing for zander as well. Challenging the biggest bodies of water is what I like most, both in Holland and abroad.
"PA Högberg, from Stockholm, will be outlining his approach to both the increasingly popular Baltic and other Scandinavian waters.
"My talk outline will be the Swedish pike of different types like lake pike, river pike, Baltic pike and sub-groups like stationary pike.
"I'll be covering techniques to catch them. How to pick the right lure. Fishing technique with different types of baits. Rods and reels and how to chose the proper gear.
"Derek Macdonald may be one of the country's best-known lure anglers but he rarely shares the secrets of his success.
"On my travels I have fished in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales even as far afield as Eastern Germany," he said."After a long and winding road, I have managed to reach my Everest and fulfil my dream, catching a monstrous fish weighing over 40lbs.
"Graham Slater is another one of pike fishing's quieter exponents, who has enjoyed some phenomenal catches.
“Thirty years of fishing waters in England, Ireland and Scotland have shaped both the way I think about my fishing and the way I go about it," he said.
"My presentation will details some of my experiences and things I've learned from them, along with last season’s results and how I achieved my most successful season ever.
"Piking 2008 is being held on Saturday, September 27 at the National Agricultural Showground, Stoneleigh Park, Coventry.
Tickets are £12 adult member on the door, or £10 in advance to members. For non-members, tickets on the door are £14, £12 advance, while up to two juniors (under-16) can accompany each paying adult for free.
For advance tickets, send cheque (with SAE...), payable to PACGB, to Mike Kelly, PAC Promotions Manager, 47 Yew Tree Road, Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN4 0BG.
Parking is free, doors open 9am.

A record number of traders have signed up for this year's PAC Convention.
Some of the top names in predator fishing will be setting up shop for the event at Stoneleigh, Warks, on Saturday, September 27.
They'll be rubbing shoulders with everything from independent lure makers to boat builders - not to mention the lively second-hand tackle and lure stands. Those confirmed so far include
The Tackle Shop, Gainsborough;
The Friendly Fisherman;
Dave Lumb Specialist Tackle;
Sovereign; Zoota Lures;
The Pike Shop;
Piking Brittany;
Esox & More;
Pike and Predators;
DIY Lure & Fly;
Bob Buteaux;
Catmaster; Fishing Pool;
Sea Strike;
Catfish Pro and
Eddie Turner.
PAC promotions manager Mike Kelly said: "Traders have been keen to attend this year's Convention after the huge success of 2008. "We have more interest and, therefore, more variety.
It's going to be a job to pack them all in, so we've extended the hall into the annex room adjoining the Speakers Hall which is also much larger than last year. It's going to be another good year."This year's bill of speakers takes on an international flavour, with anglers from Holland and Sweden featuring alongside two home-grown talents who rarely share the secrets of their success.
Michel Huigevoort and PA Hogberg will be sharing the stage with Graham Slater and Derek MacDonald at Stoneleigh, Warks, on Saturday, September 27.
Click here for more info.Tickets are £12 members/£14 non-members on the door. Advance tickets are £10 from Mike Kelly, 47 Yew Tree Road, Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN4 0BG. Please enclose a cheque payable to PACGB and an SAE.
Posted by PAC at 9:01 PM

Monday 11 August 2008

Wet weekend but who cares?

It had been nearly two weeks since I last wet a line, despite a dodgy weather forecast the kids and I were preparing to spend another night in fenland. It’s rare that I go this long without my fix of fishing and I couldn’t wait to wet a line. By 1 pm the car and roof box were loaded and we were all set to go. Madison and Isaac were as excitable as ever and this time my eldest, Shantel, had her first fishing trip of the season along with my nephew Josh. En route we met up with Dale, a work mate who has just rediscovered fishing. An hour after leaving home we pulled up by the river in Cambridgeshire.

As we lugged the pile of camping and fishing gear across the meadow the clouds were looking ominous, the kids began fishing (bait catching), with a whip while I quickly threw the tent up as the first spits of rain were whipped in on a fresh south westerly wind. From then on the weather was wet, windy and generally horrible; i.e. typical British summertime. I worried that the kids, the young ones in particular, would be miserable in the grotty weather but no! When the rain was really heavy they sheltered under the brolly and took turns with the bait catching. When the rain eased to a monsoon they enjoyed their usual routine of running around in the meadow, adding the sports of ‘getting soaked and covered in mud’ to their program. Luckily I packed spare clothes for them. Actually it pleased me to see the kids were not afraid to get damp and dirty and were still able to enjoy themselves despite the weather.

A week of heavy rain in these parts had the river looking spot on, it had risen, carried a touch of colour and extra pace. The kids had no problem filling a net with bait fish; Bream, Roach, Rudd, Bleak and Perch. However the feeder rods we had put out for the bigger Bream were totally unsuccessful. Fishing for Bream like this serves two purposes, obviously its nice to catch some decent Bream and there are good numbers of these in this river. Secondly, I like to get plenty of groundbait and feed into the swim on the theory that this will attract bait fish such as Bream, Roach etc. I believe that this in turn will attract the predators that I am fishing for. As I will be sitting in one place for around twelve hours I want to stack the odds in my favour and do everything I can to draw the fish I’m after to me.
As the light (?!) began to fade I was very confident that the Zander would be feeding as the river looked just right. Our evening meal was a traditional dish consisting of lots of sausages and bacon all expertly fried by Shantel and known as “vegetarian’s nightmare”. After that it was time to get the proper fishing started. I fished two rods, a ledgered livebait with a bait popper attached was cast upstream, in the middle of the river while a running Paternostered livebait was fished downstream. Josh and Dale fished one rod each and stuck to ledger rigs for simplicity.

The Paternoster had only been in place for about ten minutes before it started moving purposefully upstream. I wound into the first Zander of the night, a schoolie but a fish all the same. Ten minutes after the recast, the same rod was away again, the result was another Zander slightly larger than the first. This was a good start but that was the end of the action, for a while at least. In previous seasons, successful Zander sessions had followed a pattern; the smaller fish feed at dusk and dawn while the bigger fish appear in the early hours of the morning. I really hoped that this trip would follow that pattern. The water in this river is usually pretty clear compared to many fenland venues and consequently the Zander are a very vivid gold colour. The bigger fish are really impressive beasts and I hoped one of them would put in an appearance.

The night time was considerably more comfortable than the afternoon had been as the wind had dropped and the rain had dwindled to the odd light shower. We sat around, laughing, we drank tea, tried in vain to get the kids to share their sweets, and Dale and I even had the occasional can of beer, shock horror! For a while the sky even cleared enough for a spot of star gazing. The Zander however were not showing up but as I said earlier this was not unexpected. Between 1:30 & 3:30am was the time, that’s what I assured my companions. As midnight approached, the kids had retired to their tent and I sat dozing in my chair. I thought it would be a good idea to put fresh livebaits on……but then the next thing I knew I woke up and it was 4 o’clock in the morning. I dozed through the ‘hot’ time without so much as a touch. To make things worse, I checked the rods and found both were without baits, bugger!! Had I missed the chance of a big Zander? We’ll never know.

I put fresh baits on and drifted in and out of a dream which included “Girls aloud” and chocolate sauce, before I knew it the sun was up and the kids were stirring. The day dawned bright and clear but the fresh wind remained which made conditions ideal for drying the tent out. As I tidied up the kids caught a few more fish on the whip and tried to get Bream going on the feeder. At 0630 I picked up the upstream ledger rod, turned the handle and was highly surprised to find something fairly large on the end. After a bit of splashing and swirling we had a nice Zander of about six pounds in the net. It was hooked just inside the mouth so whether it had been holding on to my bait some time, or hit it when I began to wind in, who knows?

That was the fishing over with for another weekend; lots of muddy tackle, damp clothing and empty cool bags were loaded back into the car along with four tired kids. Will we be doing it all again next week? I hope so!