Monday 27 July 2009

Summer for a day

No one should have to work at the weekend, least of all me. To be fair I don't have to do it often but I don't like it. I spent the day clock watching, counting down the hours and minutes until I was able to jump in the car, which was already fully loaded with gear, then head off for a nights fishing. On the way I picked up my lil' lady Shelley who had never been fishing before. My descriptions of quiet, unspoilt rivers at the ends of winding dirt roads, spectacular sunsets and delicious fry ups washed down with wine had set her thinking she might actually enjoy the experience.

We arrived in the early evening, the river was a little low and clearer than I'd expected after a week of heavy showers. The weather however was warm, clear and dry, summer had returned for a day at least; Ideal for chilling out in the countryside. I set Shelley up with the whip and after explaining the basics left her to it while I set up the tent and got all the gear ready for the evening. It didn't take long before a truly momentous event, Shelley caught her first ever fish, a Roach. Actually she took to this fishing lark like a natural and was soon filling the net with silver fish; Rudd, Bleak, Bream and a tiny Chub. Meanwhile I had the camp-site sorted, two Zander rods were cast out and the kettle was soon bubbling on the stove, followed swiftly by the regular fishing meal of sausage and bacon sarnies, lovely. It was a perfect summer evening, the tranquillity broken only by the occasional boat passing and by a bunch of hooray Henrys who decided to take a noisy swim upriver.

Once it got too dark to see the float we gave up fishing for silvers and settled back with a bottle of wine to watch the sun set spectacularly, silhouetting a hot air balloon in the distance as it came in to land. In the half light an Owl flew soundlessly and gracefully along the opposite floodbank and the hoots of Tawnys could be heard as a crescent moon began to dip in the sky. The sky was clear so it seemed to take an age to get fully dark but when it did so the stars were spectacular. At around 10 pm the ledgered livebait was taken and I wound down to find myself connected to a fish, albeit very briefly. Everything went solid and I eventually hauled in a big bundle of weed and lots of someone else's line, whatever had taken my bait was long gone. Weed has been a problem this season so far, its very thick in places and livebaits are finding it easy to attach themselves to weed and lever themselves off the hooks. The answer would be to recast regularly but to be honest I've been too laid back and too busy just chilling out to bother too much.

With fresh baits out we settled back down to chill out and enjoy a beautiful, mild, starry night, eventually dozing off in the early hours. The next thing I knew it was dawn, signalled by a spectacular sunrise but sadly no Zander had disturbed the night. Two more fresh baits went out into the river and thinking I had missed my chance of a decent fish I dozed off to sleep again. A bite alarm sounded around 7.30 am and the next thing I knew I was scrambling towards the rod, fish on! The resistance was minimal and the fish soon materialised, a nice sized Perch, one I definitely didn't want to lose! I soon had it on the bank and was absolutely sure it would top two pounds however the scales disagreed, it was a couple of ounces under. It occurred to me that whenever I actually set out to target Perch my results are modest at best, in fact all of my biggest Perch have been caught when I've been fishing for either Pike or Zander. I think there's a lesson in that! I woke Shelley up to take a couple of quick pictures (I'm going to have to learn how to hold these things for the camera too), then slipped it back.

The second day was cloudy with a breeze from the west. Shelley emerged from the tent and settled back into the routine of catching silver fish on the whip as if she'd been doing it all her life. Meanwhile I boiled the kettle and made breakfast then slowly tidied away our camp. The traffic from holiday boats increased to the point that it was becoming annoying so by the late morning we were all packed up and heading for home. I was pleased with the Perch, it kind of made the trip worthwhile in a fishing sense. Although I'd failed to catch a Zander I'd definitely succeeded in showing Shelley some of the things that make our sport so enjoyable and I know it won't be long before she's fishing again.

Monday 20 July 2009

Ah, that's better...

Looking back over the past couple of months, since the start of spring my attempts at catching fish have been one glorious failure after another. Absolutely no Tench which is normal for me, but only small Pike and Perch on lures when I would usually expect much better, what's going on? Next year I think my spring & early summer fishing will take a different direction. Anyway, the summer holidays are here now, time for a change of pace. It's the time of year when the kids and I head to the Fenlands for a spot of camping, fishing and relaxing. In the daylight hours we fish for silvers but when the light fades out comes the heavier tackle and I target the Zander. Whether I succeed or continue my run of heroic disasters doesn't really matter, the time spent in the countryside will be rewarding and relaxing.

With a car jammed to the roof with gear we left home in the early afternoon and had an uneventful journey west. On the radio was my other sporting passion, cricket and with the Aussies in the country and the ashes at stake I'll have a radio beside me for the rest of the summer. Anyway, things were going well, England on top and making steady progress. After forty five minutes of our own steady progress I was parking the car beside the floodbank and the children were scrambling to get out.

Madison was four years old the first time she spent a night here in the fens and Isaac was three so we settled into a tried & tested routine. They waved the whip around and caught a few fish in between running around the meadow, while I set up the tent and everything else. The afternoon was warm and windy with broken cloud but thankfully it was dry which makes the whole experience so much more relaxing. The recent storms had freshened the river up nicely, it had a good flow and a tinge of colour, bang on for the Zander I hoped. Meanwhile, at Lords England got a bit bogged down in the middle of the afternoon but Prior and Collingworth ground the Aussies down later on. By six o'clock everything was ready, the net was full of fresh bait and I had two rods rigged and ready for the Zander. I fished a running ledger with a bait popper cast upstream and a running paternoster rig in front of me. Both rods were baited with fresh lives and had a 'rig rattle' on the trace.

With everything ready the next priority was food so the stove was sparked up and the frying pan was soon sizzling away. The sausage and bacon sarnies were washed down with a hot cup of tea, the wind started to die away, the river looked in great nick and everything was right with the world. It was into this happy camp that Chris stepped shortly after the stove had cooled. While the kids ran around the meadow some more we chatted the evening away and Chris cooked desert, barbecued bananas stuffed with marshmallows and chocolate! A little sweet for me but the little 'uns devoured them enthusiastically. Chris & I were content to have a cold bottle of beer and it was shortly after this things started to go a bit strange.

We heard a sound from behind us and looked around to see a car on top of the flood bank, the occupants were acting very strangely indeed. After a while it became apparent that the car was stuck on the very top with both the front and rear wheels clear of the ground. Being helpful sorts we wandered over to see if we could be of assistance, the occupants were a young couple who were slightly embarrassed and the bloke was either very drunk or very weird. He spoke with a very educated (posh) Oxbridge accent and didn't seem to understand the more rural speech of us ol' country boys. The young lady didn't even get out of the car. With a lot of exertion we managed to tip the car and get it moving down the slope at which point the lady turned around, gunned the engine and hurtled back towards us at speed, barely giving us time to get out of the way. She successfully cleared the floodbank this time and parked the car in a more sensible place. Chris & I returned to the river and tried to settle back into the ambient surroundings but our new friends weren't quite as relaxed. They had intended to camp by the river but instead were having quite a loud argument which ended with the lady storming off and the by now obviously drunk chap wandering around cursing to himself and struggling to put his tent up. He eventually succeeded and thankfully soon disappeared inside to sleep it off.

As the light faded, the temperature dropped quickly, the kids retired to their snug sleeping bags inside the tent and Chris bade us farewell. I put fresh baits on both the Zander rods and settled back to await developments. I had very little confidence on the back of my recent fishing results and to be honest I didn't care too much, we were enjoying ourselves, that was the important thing. Around 11 pm the downstream rod, set up with a paternoster signalled signs of life. I wound down quickly but the culprit had removed my bait and transferred the hooks into some weed, typical! Just my luck! I re baited and chucked the rig back out, before I settled back into the bivvy I took time to look up at the millions of stars visible in the clear sky, something that never fails to blow my mind.

First of the season

The next thing I knew an alarm was shrieking at me, I staggered out and picked up the upstream ledger rod. With daylight beginning to lighten the scene I bent into my first Zander of 2009 and after a bit of a tug o' war through the weedbeds I soon had it in the net. Not a monster but a nice fish of around five pounds and after my recent poor run I considered it a result to actually land the fish I'd targeted! The rod was re baited and cast out, I settled back into the bivvy again; relaxed, happy but very tired. No sooner had my eyes shut, it seemed I was away again, a fast take on the paternoster rod. I bent into a decent weight of fish, was there a lot of weed on the line or was this the mother of all Zander? A long shape appeared in the growing light and there didn't appear to be too much weed on the line, my hope of landing a BIG Zander grew. However, as it neared the net it became apparent that what I'd hooked was in fact a decent sized Pike, a fish around mid doubles. I was slightly disappointed but hey, it's still a nice fish which was unhooked, photographed and slipped back with as little fuss as possible. Another fresh bait was cast into mid river, it was just before 5am and the sun was creeping above the flood bank, the orange light creating a rainbow through the cloud in the western sky, beautiful!

Not the mother of all Zander but welcome all the same!

My eyes opened again a couple of hours later, it was fully daylight and the kids were chattering away happily in the tent beside me. I stirred myself awake and put the kettle on, a cup of tea to wake me up before breakfast, more sausage and bacon sandwiches. Madison was happy scribbling in her notebook about the stripy caterpillars she'd found while Isaac sat holding the whip, trying to catch a fish or two. I sat beside him and peering down into the clear water I noticed a shape beside the keepnet, it was a nice sized perch, obviously attracted by the fish inside the net. First of all we tried to tempt this fish with a couple of maggots but it didn't want to know, in fact it seemed completely oblivious. We needed a livebait but all of ours were in the net and we couldn't get to them without disturbing the Perch. Eventually Isaac caught a Bleak on the whip, a little too big perhaps but it would have to do. I lowered it down, hooked up on a spare rod and we peered down into the water wondering what would happen. We didn't have long to wait, for some reason I'd expected the Perch to swim up cautiously and casually but as soon as this fish became aware of the hapless Bleak it just nailed it and disappeared into the weed, unfortunately I suspect the bait was too big for the Perch, either that or I fluffed the strike. Whatever, no Perch graced the net this morning.

That was our last excitement of the day. The children had a last run around the meadow and I tidied all the gear up with threatening clouds building away to the west, rain was on it's way. By late morning we were back in the car as the first spots began to splat on the windscreen, cricket would help the journey pass by quickly once again. These summer nights in the fenland tick all the boxes, nice scenery, wildlife, good company, nice food, peace & quiet and for once I'd even caught the fish I'd set out after.

Sunday 5 July 2009

Sometimes things don't go to plan...

Friday evening 10 pm, sitting in front of the pc minding my own business and the phone rings, a “friend” who shall remain nameless is drunk in town and needs rescuing. The car is loaded with fishing gear & the boat is hitched. So feeling totally pissed off I unhitch the boat & drive into town. When I get to town my “friend” is not just drunk but semi-conscious and vomiting. Back home, friend is dumped in the flat, at the foot of the stairs in a heap.

I go back to the car & wipe up a few dribbles of vomit from the front footwell, not too bad. Look in the back...what the f***? At first I think it's loads of puke, in fact it's paint spilled from the pot I'd bought for redecorating my house. Loads of white paint all over the floor of my car!!!!! It takes me ages to wipe away the worst of it. It's all over my fishing gear too, including my lures!! It dawns on me that the lures are worth more than the car so I have to clean the paint off them too. A bucket of water does the trick thankfully. Eventually I get to bed about two hours later than planned.

Up again at the crack of 5am, feeling very tired but what the hell? The forecast was for mixed sunny and cloudy spells with showers. We'd had rain the previous evening so after two blistering hot weeks surely this break in the weather would switch the fish on? The weather men almost got it right, except there was no cloud and no rain, just clear skies, sunshine and more soaring temperatures. Lovely weather for sunbathing but crap for fishing, however everything was ready so I went anyway. The destination this week is a river in the fens with a good head of Pike and an even better stock of Perch.

I started trolling slowly downstream with two rods hedging my bets, one rod had a Salmo Skinner for Pike, the other a Lucky 13 for anything that comes along. In this weather I was expecting to struggle but I didn't expect it to be as hard as it turned out. I kept chopping and changing lures, depending on the weed growth and clarity of the water. In some stretches its like an aquarium but downstream of some of the side drains it can be a little murky. After a while I came to a stretch which was always a banker for a Pike or three, often there'd be a double or two in attendance. I clipped a large spinnerbait on one rod and reverted to the Skinner on the other. Thoughts of catching Perch were temporarily banished from my mind. The inevitable happened, the rod fishing the spinnerbait slammed over and I leant into the first fish of the day. Resistance was minimal, my all out Pike approach had resulted in a small Perch with a big appetite.

After that I gave up on the bigger Pike lures and stuck to small to medium baits but continued to struggle. The sun beat down, the day began to boil and my confidence dwindled. In the clearer stretches I could see fish by the thousand but none were of the predatory varieties that I was targeting. Eventually as I was motoring back up river the Lucky 13 was nailed and the result was another Perch. Having doubled my tally and after covering another couple areas that normally held fish without reward, I gave up. I stood up and slowly motored back to base looking for signs of fish, what I saw was very encouraging. Lots of Bream, not particularly big but worth catching. A couple of double figure carp, a species I'd never noticed here before but best of all Rudd. These are prolific throughout the river but I glimpsed some that were big, very big. Something to think about for another time.

The boat was soon back on the trailer and I began making my way home. As soon as I hit the main road problems began. Looking in the wing mirror I noticed smoke coming from the drivers side wheel of the trailer. I slowed down and pulled over into the first lay by I came across. The source of the smoke soon became apparent, a so far unidentified problem with the hub had buckled the wheel. The tyre was pressed up against the mudguard which was carving a deep groove out of the rubber, hence the smoke. Oh dear, or words to that effect. Luckily I had a spare wheel and changing that over was no problem but how do I prevent this tyre being gouged to pieces? That would be more difficult, leaving the boat and trailer in a lay by miles from home is not really an option. Eventually I twist, bend and break the mudguard off the trailer, leaving the wheel turning freely, if a bit wobbly. I limped home, relieved to have made it, with a knackered trailer to add to a ruined car interior, what a poxy 24 hours.
Oh well, another five days of work and I'll be raring to go fishing again!