Wednesday 30 June 2010

Summer at last

The evening following the capture of that first Tench of the season, Shelley and I popped down to the lake for a short evening session. We had the place to ourselves again so I dropped into the same swim again. I hurriedly spodded out a bit of seed mix to the edge of the pads before dropping a pop up boilie on top along with about 20 free offerings catapulted out. On a second rod I float fished pop up fake corn in front of the reeds again, well I would wouldn't I? Groundbait here was a handful of seed mix thrown beside the float with every cast. It was a beautiful summer evening with a light breeze from the south east and we sat sipping tea, chatting and enjoying the peace and quiet.

Shelley was fishing a whip, baited with maggots but the evening was quiet fish wise. The Rudd shoals were conspicuous by their absence but the odd Carp was showing by the lilies, no sign of any Tench though. As the sun began to dip Shelley's first bite resulted in a nice Roach of about 8ozs and from then on the Rudd moved in giving her a bite a chuck. I had a few Rudd on my float rod but after one or two these nothing more than annoyance, taking my bait on the drop so regularly I couldn't settle my float in position over the bait I'd chucked in. By ten o'clock I could still see my float but the Rudd were becoming a pain and the temperature had dropped below the comfortable in our shady swim so we packed up and head home.

The week that followed was glorious, very hot with clear sunny skies which is all very nice if you don't want the Tench to spawn just yet. However as I arrived at the lake at 5am for another short session I was sure they must have done just that and would be considerably lighter than they had been a week ago. I chose a swim on the southern bank for three reasons; firstly it was one I'd never fished before and secondly I'd read that Tench like to spawn amongst the roots of willow trees. The trees around me weren't willows, oh well... The third reason was I'd dreamt about fishing this spot the previous night, well you never know...

On my tramp through the swamp to reach the swim I disturbed a Jay which departed through the woods and announced my arrival by making a right old racket that sounded like a car alarm on a still night. Its shrill cries rang out sounding oh so loud despite the almost constant chatter of birdlife. I arrived at the swim and it looked good, nice overhanging trees on both sides and a small bed of lilies in the middle. On the left I laid a carpet of seed mix beside the tree and fished a 10mm boilie balanced with a bit of fake corn. I also chucked in a few boilies as free offerings. To the tree on the right I used the chod rig with a PVA bag full of pellets and a pop up boilie as bait. I chucked about thirty free offerings here too. In the middle, at close range I float fished a piece of fake corn and used some more seed mix as groundbait.

Within minutes the bubbling started, first over the right hand rod and then the left. Following my experiences fishing 'The Cauldron' I tried hard to ignore this but it had to be a good sign surely? By 6.15 I had activity all over the swim. There was loads of fizz over the right hand rod, the float was misbehaving as Rudd tried unsuccessfully to eat the fake corn and despite the line being pinned to the lake bed by back leads I was getting short pulls and taps on the tip of the left hand rod. Things looked really good and I couldn't help feeling confident but I have been here before...

Ten minutes later I saw a strange disturbance of water amongst the overhanging trees to my right. This was followed by a trail of bubbles moving quickly towards me, past me and away into the overhanging trees to my left. I've seen this before at other venues so I was 99% sure what was going on. I continued to watch the water to my left and sure enough an Otter popped his head out and slowly rolled back under again. This is the first Otter I've seen in this part of the world, a beautiful sight that I should feel privileged to have witnessed. Fantastic if you're a wildlife fanatic but as an angler I can't help fearing for the fish stocks. I sat back in my chair and scanned the water which now seemed devoid of life, surely my chances of catching anything were long gone now?

At 6.35am I had a proper take on the right hand rod baited with a pop up boilie and bent into a proper fish. Obviously a good sized Tench moving with power and pace now that it was free of spawn! No, it was a Carp. With the methods I'm currently using I suppose it was inevitable that I'd connect with one eventually but the thought hadn't entered my head until it rolled in front of me showing off its golden mirror scales. It gave a good account of itself on a short line but not being a Carp angler I like to bend my rods and soon had it in the net. It was a strange looking specimen, short & podgy, a bit like me? I know many people rave about Carp but I could never describe this particular fish as a thing of beauty despite the pretty scale pattern.

Twenty five years ago I did a lot of Carp fishing, back then 'forties' were still a fish of a lifetime and we had to drive for an hour to have a chance at catching a 'twenty'. Twenty five years ago a fish of this size would have well and truly made my day. Nowadays match anglers often land bigger fish on a pole and this fish would not even be worth mentioning in a conversation between 'proper' Carp anglers. I grew to dislike what 'Carp fishing' became through the nineties and beyond but I've discovered that I still like fishing for Carp, if that makes sense? Here at the Marsh I just enjoy catching whatever comes along and I thoroughly enjoyed catching this Carp which may well be the first of many. However, I would have been blown away with a Tench of the same weight!

With the rod cast back out and everything back to near normal the swim looked like it could yield me another fish or two. There was still bubbling by the tree on the right, sharp pulls on the left hand rod and Rudd were still trying to eat the plastic corn on the float rod. A 'fish', maybe a Carp or possibly a Tench rolled close to the float but didn't pick any of my baits up. As the sun grew higher and the day got hotter so the bubbling fizzled out and fish activity dwindled away. Even so with the banks beautiful in full summer bloom and framed by the trees all around me the lake looked an absolute picture. It didn't look like I was going to catch anything else but packing away just before 9am was still a wrench.

Sunday 20 June 2010

Fathers Day

I had another early morning, mad dash, short session in the swim I have now christened “The Cauldron” due to the amount of bubbles that are always breaking surface. Unfortunately it was a repeat of the previous few visits. I fished the overhanging bushes opposite with a pop up boilie and the margins with a method feeder & balanced boilie/fake corn. Once again the surface of the swim resembled a shaken lemonade bottle as bubbles erupted here there and everywhere, including over and around my baits. This morning I didn't have a bite, not even a daft Pike! I have never fished anywhere, for any species where there is so much activity from fish and failed to catch. I left tired and frustrated vowing not to fish the swim again if I could avoid it!

Over the past few weeks my Tench methods have evolved considerably. I started off by thinking it might be easy, float fish amongst the lilies and chuck a maggot feeder down the marginal shelf, that'll do the job surely? I wanted to use 'traditional' methods for catching Tench but as the weeks have passed by fishlessly I have found myself reverting to the methods that have caught me most Tench in the past. In the early eighties I learnt to catch Tench by float fishing Bread flake or sweetcorn amongst the lily pads but over the years I've caught far more, either by accident or design, using what should really be called carp tactics. Boilies, bolt rigs, PVA bags, method feeders and it's to these methods I find myself reverting. It's a confidence thing, I'm going back to using the tactics that have worked for me in the past. I've made a bit of a change in baits too. The pellets have been replaced by a seed mix and I've splashed out on some proper 10mm boilies from a real bait maker. The groundbait has a twist too with an old favourite special ingredient X added to the mix. With the weekend approaching I felt confident I had the methods and bait to fool a Tench.

The kids mother had informed me that the youngsters wanted to spend 'Fathers day' with me. That's fine by me; “what do you fancy doing?” I asked them. “don't know Dad, it's up to you” they say. “Fancy going night fishing?” I tentatively suggest. “Great idea Dad!!” comes the reply. So that's that then!

There is one swim on 'The Marsh' that is perfect for our requirements. It's dry, has plenty of room for a bivvy or tent, a nice big bed of lilies opposite for me to position a couple of Tench baits and very little marginal weed for the kids to snag their gear in. It happens to be one of the most popular parts of the lake so the chances of us finding it free on a Saturday evening were minimal. Work couldn't pass quickly enough but by 1830 Isaac, Madison and I were pulling into an empty car park. Not only was that swim I fancied free but we had the lake to ourselves as well! We set about unloading the car on a gloomy evening with a fresh northerly wind and threatening clouds. Before touching the fishing gear I quickly erected their tent so I could get them settled and comfortable so any showers that happened to dump on us wouldn't spoil things. This was achieved and thankfully what rainfall we had was light and brief, the kids were able to explore their surroundings while I got my stuff ready.

Before I rigged up the Tench rods I done something I thought I'd never, ever do; I used a spod. After discussing things with one of my Carp fishing pals I'd been convinced these ridiculously named lumps of plastic are not sold in adult shops but are just the job for baiting up. Half an hour later I'd come to the conclusion that the whole procedure was tedious and labourious but I had to admit I'd managed to put about two kilos of seed mix, maggots and casters out accurately and effectively. Maybe I should get a bigger spod? Now for the Tench rods; I fished a helicopter rig baited with a 10mm boilie, balanced with a bit of fake corn and cast this right on top of the baited area. The other rod was the chod rig and a 15mm pop up cast just out of the baited area. On both rods I used “Grippa” type leads with a lump of groundbait moulded around it. By this time Madison & Isaac had grown tired of whipping in Rudd and demanded supper so with everything ready for the night out came the stove for sausage and bacon sandwiches.

The sun slipped beneath the horizon and the sky gradually darkened. The kids and I crept up to the car park for a minute or two to watch the rabbits scampering about in the field then we settled back into our chairs to watch the aerial display put on by hundreds of bats. I set up a float rod, baited with a piece of fake corn popped up a couple of inches off bottom. This was fished a rod length out and to the right in front of a bed of Norfolk reeds. The float dipped a couple of times but on both occasions Rudd were the culprits. The children retired to their sleeping bags and when it became too dark to see the float, so did I. I lay back feeling confident, I'd put a nice bed of Tench food out, positioned nicely on the corner of a large bed of lily pads. I had two good baits fished on rigs that gave me confidence, surely tonight would be the night?
I slept easily but was awoken by the occasional bleep occurring on both rods, unfortunately nothing developed on either. At 4am I awoke to find the sky was light enough to make recasting easy so put two fresh baits out and topped the swim up with around twenty more boilies before climbing back into the kip bag. Why hadn't I caught? At 7.30am I was awake again and asking myself the same question. The children were awake now too so the three of us emerged from the tent. Once again I re-baited and recast both rods then set the kids up with the whip. I sneaked my float rod out too, just round the corner in front of the reeds and out of the way. Two palm sized balls of groundbait joined it along with a couple of handfuls of red maggots and the last of the casters. A fish rolled over my baited area by the lilies, almost certainly a Tench and bubbles broke surface, maybe I still had a chance? The kids amused themselves with the whip, taking it in turns to catch Perch, Roach and the inevitable Rudd while I busied myself with breakfast. We all enjoyed a nice cup of tea while the sausage and bacon sizzled.
I kept an eye on the float and noticed bubbles in the vicinity but I've seen this so many times here lately that I hardly paid it a second thought. At around 8.30am the float rose slightly then began to slide away. I was expecting yet another bloody Rudd and for a few moments that is what I thought I'd hooked, a Rudd but a good 'un. However the rod hooped over and stayed bent! I was attached to something half decent that took a few moments to realise it was hooked. The fight was unspectacular apart from a few deep boils, It dawned on me that I was actually into a Tench but at first thought it must be fairly small. The longer things went on the bigger the fish seemed, especially when it tried to get into the marginal reeds. Surely I wasn't going to actually catch it? I drew it over the net and “YES!!” It, or should I say 'she', was mine. A beautiful dark green fish, full to bursting with spawn. Would she be a PB? No she wasn't but only a couple of ounces under. That'll do for me!

We resumed our postponed breakfast. I re-baited all three rods and carried on fishing for a couple of hours more but no other Tench took pity on me. At long last I've broken my duck with the Tench from 'The Marsh'. I'd spent all week plotting & planning the fishes downfall on my boilie rods then go and catch one on the float which I'd chucked out as an after thought! We packed away the camping gear then tidied up the fishing tackle before taking a slow stroll around the lake. First through the trees where Isaac carved a path through the stinging nettles with his light sabre. Then we sploshed through the marshy bog and walked on through the field to complete our circuit. “Happy fathers day!” said Madison. “Have you had fun?” asked Isaac. “Too right I have!”

Tuesday 8 June 2010

Agony, Irony and the law of sod


Saturday morning was dull, damp and 'orrible but I managed to drag myself out of bed and get down to the Lake before 5am. Once again I was on a tight time schedule and I didn't have to spend much time making my mind up where to fish. This was due to the fact that four over night anglers were already bivvied up leaving me with little choice anyway. I ended up in a swim on the eastern bank, sitting right in the teeth of the fresh westerly wind whipping drizzle in at me. I'd not fished here before but knew from a trip I'd spent chucking a lure around that on my left was a relatively shallow slope leading away from a bed of Norfolk reeds. On the right was deeper water with the occasional patch of lily pads and here I cast the chod rig with a strawberry pop up and a PVA bag full of mixed pellets. This I topped up with five pouches of pellets, the bait kept on a fairly tight spot. On my other rod I fished a maggot feeder, filled with loads of little red wriggly things and the hook baited with fake maggots as well as the real thing. I made a line of groundbait going down the slope, consisting of the green Lake Wizard stuff topped up with lots of free offerings and goodies. My traps were set, now it was just a case of braving the elements and waiting.

I began getting pulls on the maggot feeder straight away, a procession of Rudd hooked themselves. It didn't take very long before I was becoming fed up with this but thankfully the Rudd attention soon died down. It was hard to stay comfortable in the cool, damp, dreary conditions but I was cheered to see a bit of bubbling in the vicinity of my maggot feeder rod. Maybe the Rudd had been pushed away from the area by larger fish moving in? I'd become used to seeing patches of fishy bubbling around my baits and absolutely nothing happening so was hardly on the edge of my seat as the amount of bubbling increased. Nothing was going to happen was it? No sooner had the thought entered my head than the alarm shrieked and the bobbin smacked into the butt! The strike resulted in yet another Rudd...

Half an hour later and I was fed up with the bloody things so took the drastic measure of swapping rods. The chod rig was cast on the slope in front of the reeds and the maggot feeder dropped in the deeper water to my right. The drizzle eased and the sky brightened, things got more relaxing and comfortable but fishing wise, absolutely nothing happened. Not a blip. I actually began to miss the attentions of the Rudd! As all the action had occurred to the left of the swim I decided to put both baits in this area. I managed one more Rudd before time run out and for once I wasn't unhappy to be packing up.

Now I'm used to 'not catching' Tench but this is becoming beyond a joke. All my methods and tactics have gone round in circles and I've pretty much ended up back where I began, albeit with a few refinements. I want to use what would be known as 'traditional' Tench methods as opposed to scaled down Carp tactics but it's the latter that has worked best for me in the past and its to these methods I seem to be returning. What throws me is the silt, this limits the methods I feel confident using but should I just ignore it? About 25 years ago I fished a very silty water for Carp and here I did just that, I ignored the silt and my baits frequently came back smelling of shite yet I still caught carp. However I seem to remember catch rates improved once we discovered “pop ups”. Then there's the bait. Should I continue with the pellet and groundbait approaches that have worked for me in the past or go for chucking a loads of seeds out? Maybe this is all just bollocks and I'm not catching anything because it's a deep lake and the fish just haven't woken up yet. After all, no-one else seems to be catching either. What the hell, I'm enjoying fishing a beautiful lake and despite everything loving the challenge.


Back to 'the Marsh' again, this time I had company in the shape of my son Isaac and nephew Oliver. I managed to get the boys out of their beds fairly early and by 6.15 am we were surveying the lake. The sky was clear, the sun was already shining brightly and it was getting hotter by the minute. By 0630 we were settled in fishing a swim on the north eastern side. I put two rods out for the Tench, baiting an area beneath an over hanging tree, positioning a feeder and popped up maggots at the top of the slope and a popped up boilie at the bottom. These were pretty much left to fish for themselves as I was going to be busy this morning!

The main purpose for being there was to hopefully help the boys catch a few fish and soon both were float fishing maggots in front of the marginal lily pads. It didn't take very long before both were catching Rudd, a bite a chuck with fish up to about 6ozs. I now had a full time job, unhooking fish, untangling lines and tying on new hooks as both lads developed a knack for snagging the lilies. I didn't feel I had much chance on the Tench rods but otherwise all was going well, that was until a Pike put in an appearance.

Normally I welcome the attentions of predatory fish but today this one was proving to be a pain in the back side, literally grabbing every single fish the boys attempted to land. Some they managed to get in, minus a few scales but others were engulfed and lost, hook and all as the Pike made hay. There was only one option so I rigged up a free roving float rig with a wire trace, now all we needed was a bait and hopefully the Pike would learn to avoid the area for a while. The problem now was thanks to the Pike the Rudd were now proving elusive but eventually one succumbed, was mounted on the trace and swung out into the danger zone. It didn't take long for the Pike to home in, the float buried and ploughed towards the pads. I set the hook then handed the rod to Oliver who was now playing his first ever Pike. Ollie was surprised by the strength of the fish but soon steered an immaculate looking fish of about five pounds into the net.

After that the day was an anti-climax. The sun rose higher, the temperature soared and the Rudd never returned in any kind of numbers. I kept catapulting a few chum mixers out to see if I could interest any Carp but apart from one small fish that stuck its head out, nothing doing. We kept going with a couple of fry ups but by early afternoon we were all hot and tired so decided to call it a day.

The following morning I was back again, I had the place to myself so after a quick look around settled into what has become my favourite swim on the lake, I always feel confident here despite never actually catching anything. By 5.45 I was float fishing sweetcorn in the margins and had an open end feeder baited with fake corn and maggots at the bottom of the shelf. I trickled in groundbait, pellets, corn and maggots, little and often throughout the morning. It was a dull muggy morning and with bubbles popping up in the swim I felt confident.

By 6.30am my swim was a mass of bubbles, not the classic Tench fish but big patches of bubbles breaking out here and there. They may have been caused by Carp but I was convinced they were being made by fish of some description. Today was going to be the day! The float dipped but I hesitated, it just didn't look or feel right and I didn't want to spook the fish. The float settled again, had I missed my chance? I kept recasting the feeder rod but after ninety minutes without a touch I rang the changes and switched to a maggot clip and a big wriggling mass of the things popped up, irresistible? An easterly breeze sprang up rippling the surface and the sun poked through the clouds every now and then. At 7.40 I had a “proper” bite on the float and struck into thin air, bugger!

As time passed still great clouds of bubbles broke out around the swim, fish were definitely about so why wasn't I catching? I switched the feeder rod for a pop up boilie, scattering a few free offerings around, would this do the trick? Every now and then bubbles would break out right beside my float or above the boilie rod. I began getting tentative dips and lifts on the float but struck at very few, each time connecting with sweet FA. It's ironic, the float would move and I would tense, ready for the inevitable sail away bite that never came. The second I relaxed again another slight dip on the float. The trouble is I just can't concentrate, I'd never make a matchman. My gaze keeps wandering, there's just too much to look at. This reminded me of something that I've always known. I'm hopeless at float fishing! Still fish moved about the swim and still I failed to register any positive bites. This was a situation I knew only too well when I used to do a lot of Carp fishing, I'd have fish in my swim but just couldn't catch them! Highly frustrating but in this case, strangely addictive.

By 11.30 I was tired and hungry and the fish activity had decreased markedly so I packed up. I had a totally free day so resolved to return in the evening. Before doing so I spread about a kilo of pellets around the swim and retreated pondering how to tackle the bloody fish later!

The biggest obstacle when you've baited a swim up is the possibility that someone else will set up in your place so on returning I breathed a big sigh of relief when I found the car park empty. I began carrying my gear down the path and noticed a rabbit carcass I'd seen earlier had moved. Strange...scavengers? At the bottom of the path I found a push bike and saw two teenagers, the only anglers on the lake sitting in my baited swim. Bugger!! I half heartedly set up in the swim next door while I waited for them to bugger off. Two hours later at 7 o'clock with storm clouds gathering they departed with a smile and a “good luck” and I was able to move in, getting settled just before the heavens opened.

I fished two rods while it was raining, a pop up boilie and PVA bag was cast across the bay to an overhanging tree and the feeder rod was dropped close in on top of the baited area. When the rain finally stopped I put a float rod out too and sat back enjoying the solitude as the light faded. There was a bit of bubbling going on but much less activity than the morning. At 8.30 a Carp angler I'd met before arrived and after a quick chat started setting up nearby. After about fifteen minutes I heard a cry for help and wandered over to see him with a bent rod, he was into a fish already! After a few minutes I happily netted a cracking Common of twenty one pounds for him. He was delighted and I just found it hilarious, fishing is great! As the light faded I packed up and left him to it, I was down but not out.

Like a glutton for punishment I returned the following evening for a couple of hours with Shelley for company. This time I decided to just chuck a couple of rods out and leave them to fish for themselves. Once again the pop up boilie and PVA bag combination was cast across to the tree and on the other rod I fished another boilie close in. groundbait consisted of a few free boilies and on the close rod a few handfuls of mixed pellets. Then we sat back chatting, dodging showers and enjoying the tranquillity of the beautiful lake. For some reason I felt confident that tonight I was going to catch something.

At 8.30 pm it happened, the alarm on the rod cast to the tree signalled a steady take and I bent into a fish. It wasn't huge, definitely not a Carp so surely it had to be a Tench? It came in much easier than I expected so obviously not a big fish but that didn't matter! I caught a flash of green in the dull light and prepared the net. I drew it to the surface....another bloody Pike!!! I just laughed out loud and to add insult to injury it bit through the hooklength just short of the net.

An hour later we were in the car, both still giggling about my lack of luck. I have plenty to think about and will be back soon for another go. Bloody Tench!