Sunday 29 March 2009

Two Bite Alarms - A Review

The “Boat-Biter” from Eddie Turner Specialist Pike Tackle (see link on the right hand side) is a good piece of kit at a very reasonable price. It is simplicity itself, attaching to the rod in front of the reel by an elastic loop that goes round the blank and hooks onto a lip. The line runs over a roller and when line is taken, the roller turns activating a blue LED and giving off a bleeping sound. They are best used in conjunction with a correctly set free-spool reel with a float rig or heavy running ledger.

I've used a pair of these since November and they've performed pretty well. They are reliable and loud enough to alert the angler when his back is turned in the close confines of a boat. However in my opinion they are not really suitable for someone who is fast asleep, in fact they should never be used as an excuse for an angler to 'switch off' and not be vigilant whilst fishing. They would also be useful for an angler travelling light and roving when bank fishing though I haven't used them in this situation myself.

Lets be honest, it's very difficult for an angler fishing multiple rods from a boat to be looking at all the floats all the time, so at £5 each and they are definitely worth buying.

Where the boat biter could be described as simple, cheap & cheerful, Billy's Back Biters made by Steve Bown (aka Billy Two fish) are at the other end of the scale. I've used a pair throughout the last season whilst fishing from the bank for night time Zander in the summer and Pike through the worst autumn and winter weather.

The BBB alarms are a high quality piece of kit operating on the tried and tested rear mounted drop off style in the tradition of the ET backbiter. There have been many examples of this type of bite indicator around over the years but what sets Steve's alarms apart is the quality and attention to detail. These are not mass produced in the far east, they are made with pride and care by a genuine angler who only sells what he is happy to use himself. What really impressed me was the smooth indication of 'drop back' takes. When the fish runs towards the bank, the arm registers immediately and smoothly.

Steve makes these alarms in a variety of styles, features and colours including a very fetching Ipswich Town blue. Check out his website (link on the right hand side) where there is loads of information and you'll be sure to find a model to suit. The standard model retails at £40 and to put it simply, it's the finest bite alarm of this type available. These are highly recommended!

Sunday 15 March 2009

Last Hurrah

13th & 14th March 2009

Where one door closes, another opens. The huge Norfolk Pike in Angling times means some parts of the area will get hammered, others will receive less pressure. Instead of chasing the monster Richard and I decided to keep doing what we enjoy most, fishing Eden.

The last two days of the season were upon us and there was only one place I wanted to spend them. I was to fish overnight once again, Giles joining me in the boat on day one, then Richard was to arrive in his own boat later on. Once again we were treated to a bright day with a breeze from the west. Following on from our last session we were full of confidence and we began the day close to where I caught the big fish last time, what we now call the 'stump' area of the basin. We stayed in this area for most of the morning, upping anchors every now & again but only making short moves upwind. We covered the water as best we could with deadbaits but didn't have so much as a take. Plan B in the afternoon was 'hit & run' style fishing zipping between areas. We fished each one for an hour or so but still failed to find any fish. Richard joined us in the afternoon but we struggled to come up with a plan for the night.

All too soon it was time to drop Giles off at the boatyard. We hadn't managed to boat a fish but as usual it had been a highly entertaining day in his inimitable company. Back on the Broad, Rich & I opted to tie up the boats at the top of 'the Channel'. Here we could pitch tents and fish from the bank, which is exactly what we did. Once again we enjoyed the magic of a night on the system. We thought we had a chance of a fish in this area but it was not to be. We did treat ourselves to another enormous, highly unhealthy fried meat feast, washed down with a couple of glasses of wine. The night was anything but quiet with the honking of wildfowl and the call of Tawny owls, not to mention our laughter. I laughed literally until my sides hurt. Good company, fantastic location, fascinating fishing and possibly big fish. What could be better?

Once again I wound the rods in at midnight, swallowed a large glass of wine then retired to the relevant comfort of a tent. I dozed the night away, never knowing if I was warm or cold, comfortable or not. We were both up early and raring to go for the second day. Breakfast was fried again while we tidied our camp and readied the boats. Richard decided to go off searching while I opted to stay on the same area I'd spent all the previous morning in, I just had 'that feeling', I was sure a fish or two would put in an appearance. I was right but it was only a fish of around five pounds on a bluey. We had planned to fish until midday before packing the boats onto the trailers and towing them home. As the time ticked down I really didn't want to leave the water, would I get one more chance this season? The answer was Yes! A float was zipping nicely from right to left but as I picked the rod up it stopped. I wound down but the bait had been dropped and I retrieved a tooth marked bluey. Typical, this place always leaves you wanting a little bit more!

In some ways I'm always glad when the closed season arrives, I need something that stops me listening to the mad demon in my head that drives me to almost obsession with fishing this wonderful system. For the next few months my fishing will be more varied, more child friendly and less hectic. Once the autumn comes around again I'll be ready for another crack at my favourite place.

Our turn

Late February 2009

For once I had a little extra time to spare so decided to make the most of it with a two day, overnight session and hopefully find some of the bigger fish that have avoided us. The venue would be Eden, where else?

After an unhurried journey and a careful boat loading I began the day fishing an area south of the basin that had produced a few fish for us this time last year. None of these fish had been particularly huge but it was a starting point. On the water I was greeted by a clear sunny sky and a fresh wind from the west. Two boats were at the slipway when I launched but one returned to the Staithe very quickly, I suspect it was just too small for two anglers to safely fish from in this wind. The other boat disappeared south and wasn't seen again all day. I began fishing around 0815 but just couldn't get properly anchored in the wind. After two attempts I was tempted to give up and head for calmer waters in 'The Bay'. However I thought I had a good chance of catching in this area so motored closer to the edge where I got a bit of shelter and banged the baits downwind.

I fished three deadbaits on the bottom while a fourth was drifted with the wind. After about half an hour my stubbornness was rewarded with a take on Mackerel, the culprit was a jack that shook free near the boat. I recast a fresh Mackerel downwind again and half an hour later this too was picked up, the float skidded across the surface and the boat-biter sang out.

For the first time this season I found myself attached to a proper Pike, the type of fish that make us get up in the morning, the type that make the effort worthwhile. However, for the next few minutes things didn't go exactly to plan. All was well to begin with, a nice heavy, plodding weight on the end of the line but when it neared the boat things started to go tits up. I had the net ready beside me but as I got the fish nearer I looked over to see the net had fallen in the water and it appeared to be sinking. I panicked and decided the only possible option was to use the butt of my rod to fish it out which meant putting the reel in free spool and letting the fish take line. After a bit of hopeless groping and poking I managed to get hold of the net and drag it to the boat. My haste to wind in the line caused my next problem as I managed to tangle it all around the bail arm leaving me unable to move the reel until I'd untangled it all with shaking hands several minutes later. I kept praying the fish would still be attached and despite my total ineptitude my luck held and she was in the net without any further embarrassment.
I'll get the hang of these 'self take' shots one day...

The double hooks came out easily, this was the first time I'd used the “sladle” and I was instantly impressed. She looked long enough to be a twenty and she was with eight ounces to spare, I was a very happy bunny!

I spent the rest of the morning in this area, enjoying the fact that I was the only boat in sight and I had a twenty under my belt! Around lunchtime, having had no more takes I decided to move into the quieter waters of 'The bay'. I tucked the boat into a sheltered reedy area and arranged the rods around the boat, glad to be out of the wind for a while. After half an hour a Mackerel fished at long range was picked up, the result was a small Pike but it got the ticker racing again. I fished the bay for a couple of uneventful hours then moved round to where I was due to rendezvous with Richard. The area looked good and having seen bait fish being caught here this time last year I gave it a go with maggots on a feeder rod without success. Rich had boated a couple of Pike here recently so I felt reasonably confident. This was justified with another take on mackerel from the channel but unfortunately it was dropped. We had agreed on an area that we both wanted to fish for the night and were pleased to get a call from another mate fishing nearby, we motored over to the area and had the honour of photographing a cracking twenty one pounder for him.

By 1730 we were anchored up side by side tucked into the reeds near to a small bay. During the hours of darkness I cut to two rods fishing a float ledgered bluey close to the reeds and ledgered a Mackerel in open water. Both rods were rigged up with ET boat-biter alarms with the line tight and reels in free spool. We enjoyed watching the sunset over the water whilst stuffing a fry up down our throats. The wind dropped and the sky darkened, the stars came out and later the reflection of the moon shimmered on the rippled waters. There's something magic about night fishing but something slightly mad about night fishing from a boat in March. We enjoyed an evening of banter, laughter and reminiscing, our meal washed down with a little wine. However the one thing lacking was fish. Around midnight I wound my rods in and after a last, very large glass of wine climbed into a sleeping bag and crashed out under a borrowed shelter.

A corner of paradise

We woke slowly in the morning but soon had fresh baits spread around the boats, we planned to fish the area while we cooked breakfast and tidied up slowly. The weather seemed a repeat of the first day, bright once again but today the wind was considerably stronger. The conversation was centered around where to move but was broke up in mid flow by the bait runner on one of my rods. I had a take on sardine fished close to the reeds and quickly wound into the fish. At first it felt small but by the time I had it by the boat it had grown to a double. In the net it was a good double but in the sladle it dawned on me that it was a bit bigger. A quick weighing revealed a weight of 18lbs 4ozs and a cracking fish! The photo's were taken and she was slipped back into the murky water.

I hadn't managed to lose the smile from my face when things got hectic in Richards boat. Two rods went off at once resulting in a massive tangle but two double figure Pike unhooked and quickly released. Three doubles in half an hour on the back of the fish I'd caught the day before, could it get any better? We decided to stick it out in the same area as action like this was rare and we were sure more fish would be in the area. It was a strange feeling to be fishing here and feeling confident! However time was running out for me as I had to leave in the early afternoon. Richard was able to stay another night but it didn't take that long before one of his baits was picked up again. He bent into another good fish which was quickly beside the boat and looking big. He slipped her in the net and then into the sladle to do the honours. Would she be another twenty? The answer was yes! A twenty each, (plus a third for our mate), fantastic!!

That is a smile, honest!

All too soon it was time for me to lift the weights and head back to the base. I enjoyed the journey down the dyke with the Harriers close overhead but I wasn't too keen on turning into the open waters and battling against some serious waves bearing down on me. I was even less pleased with the muppets in a fast boat tearing up and down making the wake even higher. I made it back to the slipway in one piece and as I did so heard the phone ring. It was Richard, he'd just boated a twenty one pounder, magic! We had both struggled to find big fish in any numbers since the turn of the year but for once we'd had a bit of luck!

Thursday 12 March 2009

Mixed feelings about a monster

It started with a few texts, rumours of a huge Pike; “what have you heard?, What do you know?” I didn't believe it at first but by last Wednesday I'd seen a photo and there was no doubt. The weight was amazing, 45 1/2 lbs and it looked every ounce. Then this week it was splashed all over the 'Angling Times', a forty five pounder from the Norfolk broads. The biggest 'wild' Pike from a natural water ever to be caught in England. It is official and the whole world knows about it. My first thoughts when I heard the captor was going public were, “That's the end of the broads then...”

I'm pleased that this huge fish has been caught and fair play to the captor. The weight is incredible, a forty pounder would not have surprised regular anglers but this one is five pounds heavier! Its a fish that should not exist in this day & age, like discovering a dinosaur! The most fantastic thing to happen in Pike fishing for years.

Then there's the downside. The area, already a fragile system, will come under increased angling pressure both from good Pike anglers and those not so good... The last thing in the world any Pike fishery needs is increased angling pressure. Enough said.

What would I have done? publish or not? I don't think I would have published but told people I trust along with a couple of anglings historians. In time the story would have leaked out anyway. Fish like this do need recording for angling history though. Who knows?

Congratulations to John Goble, that is one hell of a Pike!!!