Friday 30 December 2011

A walk by the water

Christmas was just manic this year, it sneaked up on me then pounced and then wrestled me for a couple of days. A healthy lay in was required then after bacon sarnies I poked my nose out of the back door to find a pleasant, mild afternoon. The good lady suggested a walk by the water, she'd take her camera and I'd take a fishing rod. Could I be bothered to rummage through the shed to sort out the necessary tackle? It's been dry around these parts for weeks. We had a bit of rain a few days ago but I figured that would have dropped out by now and the river would be low and clear. Pretty crap really but I'd have a chance on a lure. That would make a change as I rarely use lures these days. Lets do it then.

I braved the shed, and managed to drag a landing net and my lighter lure rod out. Grabbing a pair of pliers was easy next to find some lures. The second marg tub I looked in contained some spinnerbaits and a couple of rubber lures, that would do. I also picked up a bait trace and found a couple of Roach in the freezer, just in case. We left home around 1400 taking a short drive to the stretch of river I taught myself to fish on as a kid. I still hold a sentimental attachment to the Pike in this place, which I've fished for, off and on since the late seventies. In all that time the largest I have managed was 18 ½ pounds and doubles are not common but it's a place you can usually move a fish in all but the grimmest conditions. Every now and then I visit these places then rant on about how much they've changed, so I'll try not to do that this time.

Through the old houses and then to the river which looked pretty much as I'd guessed it would, only with more weed. I clipped on the lightest Zoota Wagtail in full confidence. Strange as I rarely cast lures these days and rarely fish my local river. Memories of what works where stick, almost instinct. We walked upstream through narrow, streamy stretches that really should have been stripped clear of weed by a winter flood by now. Not really good Pike water but I managed a cast or two and there were photo opportunities for Shelley. Further along the river was green and choked with duckweed, this is December? Past some bridges and on to a deeper, wider stretch of water from which I've caught many Pike in the past. There was a large sign but I had something in my eye...

A couple of swims into the stretch a cast upstream produced an unexpected thump on the rod tip and some instinct made me strike. Would you believe it, I'd hooked a Pike! After a bit of thrashing around I netted a nice little fish in perfect condition which had engulfed the wagtail. Hooks out easily and a quick pose for the photographer before I slipped a nice clean little Pike back. The first I've managed to pull out of my little local river since...? We walked further upstream past loads of fishing memories along a very nice, largely familiar stretch of river. At the top end of the stretch was another angler, I decided that as I hadn't been able to read the sign downstream I'd better make a discrete departure. A shame as I fancied my chances of another Pike or two along this part of the river.

After retracing our steps in the fading light we detour to a mill pool close to the car. Still a picturesque spot despite the encroachment of houses, if they want to live on the flood plain then good luck. Loads of memories along this stretch too but little sign of any aquatic life. It had been an enjoyable afternoon so why don't I do it more often? A decade ago lures were accounting for around 75% of the Pike I caught but after a few seasons of chucking big baits tennis elbow gave me grief. After becoming a boat owner I was captivated by trolling lures and caught literally hundreds of Pike but I grew tired of this too. T the moment my favourite fishing places don't respond well to lures and there just isn't enough time for all the fishing I'd like to do. However it was nice to remind myself that there is a time and place for the lure rod. When I sat back in the driving seat the clock said 16:09, a little over two hours out in the fresh air but enough to clear the dregs of Xmas from my mind, and a Pike!

And that will almost certainly be the last Pike I catch in 2011, a year that has gone very nicely on that front, ta very much. Then there was the Tench, Carp, Barbel or anything else I tried to catch this year. None of that went the slightest bit to plan and varied from funny to farcical although highly enjoyable. This time last year we were enjoying England thrashing Australia and retaining the ashes (more about that elsewhere) and a dominant summer followed. For the first time in my memory we have the best cricket team in the world. In fact this past year has been pretty bloody good on all fronts, concerts, festivals, parties....just those bloody Tench.

Apart from faffing around with the layout again, I've added yet another blog to the links on the right, 'Norfolk n good' is “one of them pike fishing blogs” in the words of the author, who is apparently anonymous. However I know who it is but I won't embarrass Chris by naming him. That's it for 2011, happy new year.

Thursday 22 December 2011

It's winter...

Out of bed at 5am. Outside it's freezing and conditions seem crap. I have two options, I can go back to bed for an hour, fish close to home and have a good chance of a half decent fish, or drive for an hour and have a slim chance of a whacker even though the conditions are all wrong. The whacker it is then. Out of the house quickly, after clearing ice from the windscreen I'm on the road. The Wailers throbbing from the speakers, the car feels funny, is something wrong with it? After a while it dawns on me it might be ice so drop the speed, lucky I did so as the wheels definitely went whilst braking for a roundabout. Further along the roads get worse, sleet has fallen over night and then frozen, this isn't good. Another dodgy moment on a bend, “why am I doing this?” Mostly because it's probably safer to continue than turn back. The roads will be much better tonight. Eventually I make the last turn with Peter singing “You can't blame the youth...”. After listening to music from the hot bosom (easy now) of tropical Jamaica I step out into a freezing cold English morning.

Next I get to work on the boat, which is nicely full of water and more ice. So full in fact the bunks on the trailer have shifted so that has to be sorted out too. After nearly an hour of bailing, grunting and swearing the boat is loaded, launched and I'm ready to go, three hours after my alarm woke me. Why am I doing this? Splashing myself with cold, icy water on a cold icy morning? Surely these are symptoms of madness? How could we ever explain this compulsion to a non angler?

I dropped the weights in the swim I wanted to be in. Deadbaits positioned nicely, I'm feeling confident and as comfortable as I could be. Options for later, stay in general area or move off to another favourite area?

All four rods were kept on move all day, twitches & recasts, cold water Pike will be close to the bottom and moving very little. Just how cold is it? Thermometer shows a water temperature of just 1.5*C! Oh shit, I didn't expect it to be that cold! With that news the confidence I'd had over night started to ebb away. I realised that I'd spent all week thinking about where to fish and had hardly noticed the temperature had been sliding. Madness! On the other hand I'm out on the water in a beautiful place with a chance, no matter how remote of.... What the??? Great, it's snowing just what I need...

After seventy minutes a bait runner ticked a couple of times. Fish? Probably not, that's the Herring I'd just twitched so almost certainly the line tightening against the swing of the boat. Hang on a minute...the float zipped along the surface and we're away! Gloves off, heart pounding, pick up the rod and wind down and 'Yes' fish on! A nice fight in the cold water then she's in the landing net. There she rested while I got the forceps camera and scales ready before collapsing the net and lowering her into the sladle. I don't usually wear an unhooking glove but in this temperature I decided it was well worth doing so. The top double hook was nicked in behind the scissors and came out with a twist. Normally I would have used both the scales and camera on this fish but in this weather it seemed easier to just lower her over the side of the boat and say goodbye. No weight, no photo...madness? A nice fish against the odds, a nice moment that justified my insanity, to me at least.

Twenty four hours later, who put the world on fast forward? Wrapped up tight against the cold braving the elements and the onslaught of humanity. Hell on earth or as some people call it, Christmas shopping. Wishing I was sitting in a damp boat, at the mercy of the elements in a wild and beautiful place. And they call me insane?

Added to the side bar are two new links, both to online magazines dedicated to Predator angling. The 'Pike Pool' is a blog made entirely from voluntary contributions from members of 'The Pikers pit' forum which is by far the liveliest place to talk about Pike fishing in the UK & Ireland. Initially created by Chris Hammond with a bit of help from Dave Lumb, now Rob Shallcroft is editor. The writers vary from experienced veterans to first timers. All have something to say and so far all have said it very well. Top work fellas!

Then there's 'Esox World' the creation of top Piker Steve Rowley. An online mag in the truest sense. Issue one featured Pike fishing in the UK, Ireland and Europe as well as Musky fishing in North America. The writing line up is quite literally, the best known names in the game. The result is first class. If the next issue is half as good it will be a 'must read'.

Two new online places to enjoy a really good piece of writing about predator fishing and both are totally free. Each done in a different way but both done well by passionate Pikers and are highly recommended, there is time and a place for both.

Sunday 4 December 2011

My little world

I've been wanting to write something for the blog but what? I don't want to say too much about the fishing this autumn however I've never enjoyed my fishing as much as I have the past couple of months and stuff is kind of bursting out. Firstly the new boat has made a hell of a difference. Longer, wider, more stable, shelter on the rough days, more comfort than I've ever known in a boat. Even as I leave the slipway, I'm feeling more confident already. This boat belongs here, and it's lucky!

A few years ago I decided there was only one water system that ticked all the boxes for what I enjoy about Pike fishing. The place is special, it's addictive, it gets into your soul and you crave it when you're away. Here was somewhere I could totally blank all day and still love every minute spent on the water. It's a bird watchers wet dream out there but ironically these Nazis don't know how to be patient enough to see anything. Along the way I learnt that to fish this place and do it justice, I would have to put 95% of my fishing time into it, leaving little time or energy to fish elsewhere. It was the best thing I ever done.

Out on the water this season I've caught some Pike largely by luck when a couple of last minute hunches paid off but equally a little bit of pre planning brought a few others to the boat. Things have gone well and this is mostly due to experience. Things that baffled me a few years ago, now make a little sense. Little pieces of the jigsaw begin to fall into place. Repeat captures tell us a lot, sometimes only yards from the original spot and on other occasions they're miles apart. Knowledge begins to build up, experience of where I've caught fish in similar conditions/times in years gone by. However the system changes every season too. A productive swim one year can be a dead loss the next and there seemed no logical reason why. Look a little closer and there are subtle changes, things aren't quite the same any more; man, nature and tide all take their toll. For example, one area that I like was always a bit 'hit & miss', what you might call a “50/50 swim”. However, approach the area from a another direction and position the boat in a slightly different way and I'm now seeing the whole picture in a different light. My baits are now spread out in a different way and I'm covering different water, the swim is now an “80/20”.

Talking of 'spreading the baits'. When I first fished here I'd generally cast four deadbaits from the four 'corners' of the boat. Nowadays I put a lot more thought into it. These Pike are feeding by smell, there are better ways to do it than just randomly chucking four baits out. Then there's the bait choice, how important is it? I'm sure the Pike will eat whatever they find, I'm equally sure that they find some types of bait quicker than others. There's loads to think about out there; if plan A isn't working then what are plans B & C? Stick or twist? To experience add persistence, the next time I drop the mudweights could be.... To some people it's a boat trip with fishing rods. To me it's tough, challenging, fascinating fishing and I love it.

Dave Lumb's rods come with an excellent reputation and this is certainly deserved. I bought one a couple of years ago but I'm afraid the lucky “pixie dust” that Dave applies didn't kick in to begin with. I took ages to christen the rod with a Jack then all the little landmarks along the way, (first double, first 15+, etc.) all took time. The 'pixie dust' must have been some kind of slow burn variety as I'm happy to say that this year my 'P3' has been my lucky rod. Using this rod I've boated some big Pike in often tricky situations and it's done everything I've asked of it with ease. After a thorough testing I can say Dave's P3 deserves the reputation and if in the future, I ever need another Pike rod I'll be choosing one from here.

Dodgy self timer shot, caught on a P3

Meanwhile...another world away a certain trout reservoir continues to produce one huge Pike after another. Personally I've never ever applied for a ticket and I doubt I'll ever cast a line in the place as it just doesn't float my boat. It is what it is, you pay your money and take your chance but it's not for me. I'm lost in my own little fishing heaven and what happens outside of this might as well be on another continent. To all the Pikers out there that fish the place, best of British luck to you, I hope you catch the fish of your dreams and I'll continue to fish for the one I dream of. Or as a friend said recently “As long as **** is fishing well the places I want to fish will be quieter”

Friday 28 October 2011

Good stuff

Their can hardly be an angler anywhere that doesn't know the name 'Mick Brown, thanks largely to his TV career. However us Pike anglers have known of Mick for a lot longer, I think I first became aware of the name in 1986? with his contribution to “Pike, the predator becomes the prey”. One of the finest Pike books ever written in my opinion. Mick's first book “Practice and the Passion” was a bloody good read and more recently the books he's produced with Fox, although heavy on advertising, contain first class information. We Pikers all know Mick as 'one of us', a pukka Piker and an incredibly successful one at that!

This years PAC convention saw Mick unveil his latest book “Professional Pike angler”. This book was very well received, in fact so much so Mick had sold out by the time I got round to seeing him. Thankfully I received a copy by mail order shortly afterwards so didn't miss out. So far I hadn't heard one single negative comment about the book, many were raving about it so I couldn't wait to dip in.

To put it bluntly I think this is one of the very best books I've read on the subject. I've read it once quickly and it demands to be read again, slowly and thoroughly, some time soon. Mick has put across his thoughts on Pike behaviour, learned from years of experience in all types of water and done so in a way that is easy to read. Unlike some others he is able back up his theories with evidence, observations, facts and photographs. Each chapter the ideas are illustrated through anecdotes; stories of successful days, observations and the thought processes of a successful Piker. I found it fascinating.

There is very little 'technical stuff', for example rigs, descriptions and diagrams are notably absent but as the author says, there are plenty of publications that include these and I was happy to live without them. I was really interested in Mick's thoughts about deadbaits and 'scent trails' as this is something I work on in my own fishing. Livebaiting, prebaiting, trolling, lure fishing, bank fishing and boat fishing, it's all covered in the same depth and in the same way. MB tells us how he thinks the Pike is behaving, why it's behaving that way and his reasons for the theory. With his record, the reader has to take notice. The “Sea Pike” chapter is inspiring, adventurous stuff that really made me want to travel... However, right now fly fishing for Pike isn't something that gets me excited despite Mick's enthusiasm. I wasn't as interested in the media/work side of Mick's fishing career but that's something I don't aspire to anyway.

The book is nicely laid out and is full of photos of Pike of all sizes, one major advantage of Mick's media career is the vast library of pictures he has to choose from. Some of these photos are awe inspiring, others simply stunning and there is literally colour on just about every page. Mick Brown “Professional Pike angler” is a damn good read and is highly recommended. It retails at £28 plus P&P and is available from

While I'm recommending things, an item of kit that no boat angler should be without is the “Sladle” from Eddie Turner Specialist tackle. How do I describe the sladle? It's designed by an experienced boat angler, Simon Lambard. Well it has two adjustable rigid poles that stretch across the boat. Suspended from these is a 'pike friendly' cradle. When I have a Pike in the net I fold it down and place mesh, arms and Pike into the sladle. Now the fish is totally enclosed, suspended above the deck and cannot come to any harm. The fish can then be comfortably unhooked without any chance of it thrashing about on the deck. The sladle can be used as a weigh sling too but I found it a bit cumbersome. This year ETST brought out a separate weigh sling that fits nicely inside the sladle, I drop the landing net straight into this and usually slide the fish out of the net and into the sling. Once the unhooking is done simply zip up the sides and lift the sling containing the Pike out of the sladle for weighing. Finally both sladle and sling are suitable for retaining a Pike for a short while, over the side of the boat, should the need arise.

Imaginative title "Pike in Sladle"

The Sladle is a unique piece of kit in the field of Pike angling or indeed boat angling. It's designed to keep the Pike safe from harm throughout the time it spends out of the water and it does just that. I spend most of my time fishing in a boat, alone and I wouldn't be without a sladle. In fact I'd urge every boat angler to have one, it's in the fish's best interests after all. Available from Eddie Turner specialist tackle.
You guessed it..."Pike in weigh sling, in sladle"

Monday 12 September 2011

Was that summer?

Where does the time go? It dawned on me that almost a month had past since I last wet a line. In that time the summer party season has still been in full swing, I've been emotionally involved in watching England become officially the best cricket team in the world and I've been rigging up a new boat, with help from Rich. Apart from that I've been in a kind of limbo. My mind is on Pike fishing but it's still too early. I still have my Carp/Tench kit ready in the shed but I don't have any enthusiasm for this type of fishing. However this past weekend I felt the pull of the water side and just had to spend a few hours down by the lake, any lake but what should I fish for? In the end I decided to hedge my bets.

I arrived at 'the marsh' at around 1530 on a blustery autumn afternoon, there was only one other angler present, bivvied up on the far side. The sky was mainly bright but the fresh westerly wind was pushing clouds across and the forecast threatened rain. I picked a swim in the teeth of the wind and began by setting up a boilie rod. I fished a 'Chod' rig and pop up cast a short way to a point in the reeds and baited the area with around 500gm of 10mm boilies. My second rod was a float set up with a waggler fishing sweetcorn on the lake bed in front of some dying lilies. This area was baited with 'Green Carp mix' made by Lake Wizard, to the mix I added half a tin of corn. It was inevitable that I would catch Rudd and Roach so I had decided to embrace this and try to catch the blighters. Maybe a Tench would move into the area, who knows?

As I was setting up a Heron flapped noisily into the Lily pads opposite me, hopefully we'd both have a little luck with the fish this afternoon? The float began dipping and moving straight away, as expected. I kept striking and missing but eventually hooked a couple of small Rudd. These fish were obviously intercepting the corn as it sunk. A little adjustment of the shot and I was able to avoid these critters. While I was doing this I noticed movement out of the corner of my eye, something on the surface, 'what the hell is that?' I wondered. It was a snake, a Grass snake I assume and a very rare but welcome sight. The animal swam across the front of my swim, paused amongst the lilies for a rest before going off again and disappearing amongst the bankside vegetation.

Look carefully, that's a snake

The shotting change worked, bites became irregular but when I connected the fish were a better size, Rudd and roach of 4 to 8 ounces. Why can I never get enough of these when the Pike season starts?? The weather was pleasant and I sat comfortably in my chair with cricket on the radio, TMS my regular companion painting the picture of a tight game. Away to the south dark clouds were dropping rain on someone but I admired the resultant rainbow. The boilie rod was absolutely silent but the float dipped regularly enough to keep me on my toes. I was going to say 'keep me interested' but to be honest, I was in danger of being bored. This kind of fishing doesn't hold my attention unless there's the chance of something substantial taking my bait. Yes there was that chance but I just didn't feel it was going to happen.

With all those Rudd and Roach kicking around in the net and a spare rod laying in the holdall it was only a matter of time...I couldn't resist! Float, traces, lead and link. A paternoster rig was born, baited with one of the smaller Rudd and gently swung out into the deeper water beyond the pads. The bait was lively and kept the float bobbing and dipping which renewed my interest but as the time ticked round it appeared this wasn't going to work either. It just wasn't going to be my day. Then it's been that kind of summer, the effort I've put in has been sporadic as have been the results. I haven't enjoyed the fishing at the Marsh as much this year, early season it was just too crowded. I haven't really fished the place as effectively as I could/should have either. Shall I give the place another go next season? Probably, one last season. Elsewhere I caught plenty of Carp from 'The Puddle' but I only went here as light relief when the Marsh had proved hard going, which was often to be honest!

The sun was dipping and a full moon had risen away to the east. I packed up the float rod before it became too dark and then reluctantly tidied up first the boilie rod then the livebait. I always hate packing up, even when the fishing hasn't been riveting. This time I was packing up not just for the day but for the summer season. Soon it will be Pike time and for a variety of reasons I've decided that very little of it will be blogged, not this year at least. To pretentiously quote the Prodigy from “Music for the Jilted Generation”

“I've decided to take my work back underground, to stop it falling into the wrong hands...”

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Summer Holiday

Early August, the family and I head off on holiday, Wessex bound. The draw is beautiful scenery, wildlife, walking, interesting cities, for the others shopping and for me the chance to have another go at catching Barbel in their natural wild river environment. As I've said before, stillwater Barbel don't count!

Anyway, a day of driving was followed by a walk in the wild woods where we saw many species of birds including, most impressively Buzzards soaring high over head. These were soon upstaged by the Deer we saw scampering through the trees after being alerted by Isaac. Home for the week was a small converted barn which at some point in it's history had been used for making cider. Shelley was disappointed that there was none left behind but not disappointed by the quality of the local brews! After a couple of days I couldn't resist the lure of the river that lay at the bottom of the hill. An exploratory wander revealed the water was low and clear but I managed to find a spot that I felt gave me a chance of a fish, despite my almost total lack of Barbel fishing experience.

So bright and early on the Monday morning I made my way down to the river and commenced fishing in an area that was slightly deeper than the shallows that surrounded it but still retained a decent pace to it. The river was still gin clear and carrying an annoying amount of drifting weed but not enough to make fishing impossible. After a while I worked out how to keep two rods in the water and fish effectively. My downstream rod consisted of a leger with a long hooklength baited with two 10mm fishmeal boilies and a PVA bag of Halibut pellets. This was cast just to the edge of the faster flowing water. The other rod was also baited with a couple of boilies but on this I fished a feeder filled with Hemp which rolled round with the current, methods I'd learnt last year.

The early morning period saw hazy mist rolling down the river but this soon burnt off leaving a mostly bright day punctuated but a couple of short sharp showers. I recast the Hemp rod regularly but let the pellet rod fish for itself mostly. It was a pleasant morning on the river with only the bird life for company but it lacked the most important thing, fish! After a few hours of catching nothing it was hard to remain confident without any experience to draw on. I looked at my watch at around 0930, the kids would be well and truly on the move, time to head back to the barn. It was only when I reached the car that I noticed the “Private fishing” sign nailed to a tree at the top of the bank....

The following afternoon all four of us; Madi, Isaac, Shelley & I had a rendezvous with Rob at a stretch that was ideal for our purposes. Plenty of green space for the children to run around in, a pub nearby for sustenance and the chance of a Barbel in the river. We fished with rolling feeders baited with hemp and maggots and caught fish virtually from the off; Bleak, Dace, Chub...but the Barbel avoided us. Bites came in fits and starts, we kept the bait going in, hoping.... Rob caught the better sized Chub and a Lovely Perch...The weather was very nice, the local best bitter excellent and the company was first class. We chatted all the usual fishy stuff along with football and cricket then put the world to rights but still no Barbel appeared.

As the light faded we adjourned to another local pub for a well earned pint and introductions to another angling brother. Although I could have stayed and drank beer all evening, all too soon the children were yawning and it was time to head off. I'll be having a beer with Rob at the convention next month and the next time we fish together will probably be out here in the east after the Pike?

A couple of days passed and I still had a load of hemp fermenting in a bucket so made another early morning visit to the river. This time I fished a little further along from the stretch I'd tried on my first attempt. OK, this time I knew I shouldn't be there and this would require a little more subtlety should someone challenge me but hey, what harm was I doing?

The upstream end of my swim was shallow with water rushing through into the deeper run in front of me with swirling eddies on either bank. It looked the business, surely home to a Barbel or two? Time would tell. I fished the same methods as the first trip, PVA & pellets on the downstream 'sleeper' rod and hemp in a feeder rolling down with the current on the second. However I'd purchased a tin of sweetcorn to give me a better chance of catching any Chub that might be around. The morning was dull and gloomy, constantly threatening rain but not quite delivering. It was wonderfully quiet in the tree lined banks, only the pipping of Kingfishers zipping along the river and the mewing of ever impressive Buzzards high over head broke the silence.

Time passed. I kept feeding the hemp and rolling the feeder but the only thing I caught was rocks. These wild rivers are heavy on the tackle but I'd come prepared. I may have had the occasional slight tap on the rod tips but being unused to this style of fishing I hardly noticed. I did know that should I be lucky and a Barbel find my bait there'd be no mistaking the bite. I kept hoping...

By 1000 I'd almost run out of bait but resolved to keep on going until it was all gone. I glanced down into the clear water and noticed a cheeky Chub mopping up a few bits of corn I'd dropped before sliding off into the river again. A few minutes later it repeated the procedure and this was just too much to take. OK, it wasn't a Barbel but it was a fish of a size that made it worth catching so I dropped my bait into position and waited. A few minutes passed and the Chub appeared again, made its way to my bait, watch the quiver tip and....nothing happened...but my bait had gone??? Maybe it wasn't meant to be my day. One more go, three grains of corn on the hair, dropped into position and wait. Five minutes later and here came the Chub again, this time I didn't rely on the quiver tip. I watched the fish approach my bait, the bait disappeared, I struck and the fish was on! After a short fight on a stiff rod the fish was brought to the net. By no means a monster but big enough to put a smile on my face.

I loaded the feeder with the last of the hemp and stuffed the hook/hair with a load of corn. Would one last cast bring me the Barbel I craved? The answer was no but if anything the drive to catch another is even stronger than it was a year ago. That evening was the last of our holiday so the family and I took a stroll along another stretch of this beautiful river, saying goodbye. It occurred to me only then the things I could have done a little differently to give myself another chance...I'll be back next year.

A few days later we were back home. Shelley and I took a long walk along a stretch of my local river. I wondered how Barbel would fair in this river but I fear the answer would be badly. Two years ago I wrote about the demise of this little river through abstraction and neglect now things are even worse . No flow, painfully shallow and choked to strangulation point by weed. I really fear for the future of this waterway, it's bloody criminal.

Wednesday 3 August 2011

Party season

Towards the end of a hot summer day, Shelley & I arrived at the 'pretty puddle' for an evening chilling out by the lake. This is actually the first time I've been fishing in almost six weeks. Firstly lack of success saw my Tench fishing at 'the Marsh' just run out of steam. In hindsight I made loads of mistakes, I fished it all wrong but I'll have another crack next spring and won't make the same mistakes again. Secondly summer time is party time, there is only so much leisure time available so something has to give. I've spent many happy days and nights in the company of some of my favourite people; Parties, BBQ's, music festivals, cricket matches, eating and drinking too much. It's been a busy time, spice of life.

Anyway tonight I just wanted to chill out in a shady waterside place and put a bend in the rod. We settled in a large comfortable swim in one of the bays and I began feeding chum mixers which were soon being slurped down by greedy Carp. After almost an entire summer of being hammered these fish are a lot more wary than they were earlier in the year. Getting a take requires a lot more patience but to be honest it's nowhere near as frustrating as the floater fishing I used to do in years gone by. Here you know the fish will make a mistake sooner or later.

Shelley began fishing with a floating bait on a powerful whip. I'm not a lover of pole fishing for Carp as I've seen the damage done to Carp's mouths by bullying them into the net on these things. Shelley would not be hurrying to drag the fish in, the elastic would be allowed to do it's job. I had a rod set up to freeline a floater but to begin with I was just content to feed the swim, watch and wait. However, when a Carp began taking baits from literally beneath my feet, I couldn't resist dropping a bait on it. This was taken almost immediately and I found myself attached to a fish that pulled my arms off in an attempt to escape...but didn't. The fish was a nicely coloured Mirror but had half it's tail missing, a battered dorsal fin and a mouth that was ripped to pieces. My views on irresponsible match fishing for Carp are hardening....

After that the fishing became harder. Small groups of Carp would move into the swim, slurp a few floaters down and then move out again. At this stage of the season they have developed the nack of ignoring the bait with the hook in. Still the evening was warm and pleasant and we were chilling out in a nice place. Shame the two idiots fishing in the next bay weren't a little quieter and a lot less dramatic. However it became easier to tune them out as time went by.

The next action came to Shelley, a nice little common hooked on a floater. The whip was handled nicely, the elastic allowed to do it's job and after a few patient minutes the Carp was coaxed into the net. At around seven pounds possibly a personal best for Shelley? I decided to sneak out an extra rod, fishing a pop up boilie and a PVA bag of pellets. This eventually produced the next fish of the night, a small common. I'm sure I'm not imagining it, baits fished on the bottom seem to catch the smaller fish at this place.

As the light slowly faded the Carp became more confident feeding on the surface. A bait swung under the over hanging trees would be taken with confidence almost every time and I landed more than I lost. By the time it was too dark to see the bait my total was up to four or was it five? All were commons of 3 to 6 pounds. Sadly more than half of the fish landed tonight showed signs of damage caused by bad angling practice.

By nine o'clock it was too dark to see our baits so we packed in for the night. It was nice to be fishing again after a long lay off. This type of easy fishing gives instant gratification but would never hold my attention for long. Next week I'll hopefully be trying my hand at something more challenging in wild waters. After that it'll be time to start preparing for the real thing.

Monday 27 June 2011

Misguided ??

I needed a reminder of what catching a fish actually feels like so when the opportunity to have a couple of hours at the easy place (AKA Pretty puddle)materialised it was too good to resist. I arrived in the late afternoon on a bright and breezy day but was disappointed to find the place was ram jam packed. It crossed my mind to go home right then. There had evidently been a match but thankfully it appeared to have just finished as people were packing up. I had a walk around and was relieved to find a few areas without brightly coloured boxes and bits of carbon fibre laying around. Thankfully there were areas of the lake that hadn't been hammered today, one was a bay I'd not yet fished with a nice looking overhanging tree to provide cover. This would do me so now it was just a case of waiting for the matchmen to bugger off.

All too slowly the matchmen weighed in and departed. It's amazing to me that they ever catch anything with the amount of noise they make. I suppose to them it's all friendly banter but the language involved made me glad my children hadn't come fishing with me. Oh yes I can curse with the best of them but I try not to when my kids are around. I watched a couple of anglers weigh in. I know there are people who get too precious when it comes to “fish welfare” but I'm sure a blind throw over the shoulder isn't the best way to return a skimmer Bream. This same group insists on the barbless hook rule on grounds of 'fish welfare' but I and many others are convinced that a barbless hook actually does more damage. This is especially so if an ultra stiff carbon pole is used to pull a thrashing fish over a landing net in double quick time. I'm not anti matches or a match anglers, I'm sure most are sensible people who are good at what they do but this lot...It struck me that these people were a poor advert for the sport of angling, luckily this water is on private land with no access to the general public.

By 1700 I was fishing with two rods and happily had the lake to myself. I cast a method feeder across to the overhanging trees opposite me, this was baited with a 15mm pop up boilie on a short, stiff hooklength. My second rod was a float rod, fished slightly over depth and baited with fake corn & maize. This was cast to a snaggy area to my right. To begin with all was very quiet, had the noise and hammering put the fish off? After a while a few Carp began to show on the surface. I usually prefer to catch these fish on bottom rigs, I suppose it gives me confidence that the methods work when I fish 'The Marsh'. However today I just wanted to catch by any means possible so broke down the float rig and instead tied a size 12 hook straight onto the mainline. I began feeding a few chum mixers and soon had a few fish moving on the surface. On my first cast with a freelined floater, after about ten seconds, a Carp slurped it down. Within a couple of minutes a small common was bullied into the net.

After a slow start I began to get a few fish interested. Firstly on the floaters, a pretty little mirror followed by a nice, torpedo shaped common that was easily into double figures but I couldn't be bothered to weigh it. After that I got more action on the method feeder with a succession of little commons that were like peas in a pod. There were still fish interested in the floaters but they were a little finicky and moved in and out of the swim. At one point I was playing a fish hooked on the floater when the method feeder screamed off. I bundled the first fish into the net but by this time the other was long gone. For years I've always played fish by back winding but here I was experimenting with playing fish off the clutch. It felt weird to begin with but with a decent reel, unlike the Mitchell 300's I grew up with, in theory the clutch should be better??

Time was passing quickly and I really ought to have been going but I told myself 'just one more fish'. That last fish is always a lot more tricky than all the others and so it proved. Eventually a floater was sucked down and I set the hook into a Carp that tore across the bay taking line off the clutch. The rod was hooped over and I was in no doubt that this was the biggest fish I'd hooked all evening by a distance. There are a few Carp in this water that are big by any ones standards and this felt like one of them. I hung on for a minute or so as the clutch made noises but just as I felt I was gaining control the hook pulled out. Bugger!! Actually the words I really used would have made the matchmen blush. Should have tried to back wind??

That was it for the night. I quickly bundled the gear into the back of the car and hit the road. I'd enjoyed myself, it was nice to have a few fish that pulled back, nice to have a bend in the rod and nice to be driving home feeling that I'd achieved what I'd set out to. Well almost...

Monday 20 June 2011


It's been over a month since I've been able to spend any more than a few hours at the Marsh buthere at last was a free weekend. The day before I'd taken a bit of a detour and had a quick look around. There were a few anglers about as usual but the swim I'd fished last time out was empty. If this remained the case the following day I'd be happy to fish there.

At home on the Saturday morning, I took my time boiling up some seed mix and slowly getting things ready. Friday had been wet, wet, wet (with no connection to that truly awful pop band) but Saturday was mainly bright and dry albeit with the occasional shower. There was a stiff south westerly breeze too, keeping the temperature a little lower than it should be at this time of year.

I arrived in the early afternoon expecting to find the car park full as usual but there was only one other angler on the lake and he was fishing an area I didn't fancy. All my previously made plans went out of the window as I was spoilt for choice. I took a slow stroll around but couldn't make up my mind. I noticed the other angler using a bait boat to place his tackle on a spot which is otherwise impossible to fish. I suppose this is legitimate use of the dreaded bait boat but even so I can't help thinking it's kind of cheating.

Eventually I settled on a swim, one I'd christened “The Cauldron” last season due to the massive eruptions of bubbles that always occurred whenever I fished it last season. This swim covers a large bay and is full of features; overhanging trees opposite and lined with lilies. I took my time setting up, putting the rods out first then getting the bivvy organised. The weather had been a mixture of sunshine and showers, with more wet weather forecast I needed to keep my kit dry. Wind was a fresh South westerly which blew down the lake turning the water over nicely.

By 1430 I was fishing with three rods. I cast a method feeder baited with a 15mm pop up to the overhanging trees opposite then an inline rig baited with another pop up and a PVA bag of mixed pellets was dropped into a spot where the trees meet the lily pads. On my third rod I float fished fake corn and maize in front of the marginal lily pads, ground-baiting with seed mix and a bit of loose maize.

The afternoon was bright and pleasant but a bit humid with all the moisture around in the air. Once again the lake looked a picture in it's green summer suit. The only problem with my feature packed swim was which ones do I cast baits to? There are just so many places to drop a bait but eventually I devised a plan for intercepting fish moving in and out of the bay. The overhanging trees opposite would be a natural bottleneck for fish entering the bay so I'd keep a bait here and bait it up with a load of 10mm boilies. This would be a difficult cast after dark (NO to a bait boat) so if, heaven forbid I had a take I'd drop it onto the margin spot which I'd been baiting with seed mix. The other rod I'd fish to the pads at the bottom of the bay, a comfortable cast at any time. How I approached things the following morning would depend on how the night went.

The afternoon passed without a fish of any sort showing any interest. I'd hoped to while away the time by listening to the cricket on TMS but rain was affecting play down south. In the early evening rain swept over the lake too but luckily I was well prepared for it, my cheap & cheerful bivvy is surprisingly waterproof. While the rain came down I took the opportunity to enjoy a brew and a fry up in the comfort.

Once the showers had blown over I was treated to sunshine again and I enjoyed the scene before me. Warblers of some description (probably reed warblers???) darted amongst the Norfolk reeds, a Kingfisher zipped across the bay landing on a dead branch for a perch. A family of ducks took residence in my swim but made baiting up difficult. Around 2030 I got everything sorted for the night as planned. The inline rig landed bang on position by the overhang, who needs a bait boat? I continued to use the float rod to fish the margins and kept a constant trickle of feed going in. Every so often the bubbles that give 'the cauldron' it's name would erupt. Last year these would drive me mad as I was sure a Tench or Carp would pick my bait up at any second. Now I've sussed that most of the time it's shoals of silver fish moving onto the feed in the silty bottom. As if to prove my point I had a twitchy take on the method feeder around 2100 which resulted in a Rudd of about 4ozs hooked fairly in the mouth...on a 15mm pop up!!! This is no longer funny!

This is no longer funny!

I continued fishing the float rod until it became too dark and being mid June it was passed ten o'clock by this time. As the light faded two mice scurried around my feet, tidying up spilt bait. Everything was sorted for the night so I decided to get into the kip back and get my head down. The night was cloudy and mild but thankfully dry. The fresh wind didn't seem to drop at any point. For some reason sleep didn't come easily. I kept drifting in and out and kept getting short pulls on the method feeder rod but no definite takes. The dawn chorus commenced in the reeds around me at about 0230 which didn't help either.

Eventually I dozed off for a couple of hours, waking again in growing light at 0430. This was a good time for fresh bait so I recast the method feeder across to the overhanging tree and dropped the inline rig close to the pads in front of me. I changed the bait on this rod to Maize, balanced with fake corn and topped the groundbait up before climbing back into the kip back. Surely I'd be woken up by a screaming take and a nice fat Tench?

View from the front door

My anticipated alarm call didn't occur. At 0745 I was awake once more, realisation dawning that once again, my best chance of a Tench had been and gone. I woke myself up with a brew and a fried breakfast. While the sausages were sizzling I recast both rods, the method feeder landed perfectly by the tree again. I tried to tell myself I was still in with a shout, for an hour or two anyway.

By 1030 I was loading the car, another blank recorded. Bloody lake, there;s no bloody fish left, the bloody Otters have eaten them all!!! Of course this isn't true. There a few very big Tench and some decent Carp in there, it's just me, I can't catch them!! Back to the drawing board!!!

Wednesday 15 June 2011


I hadn't had the time or opportunity to go fishing for far too long! I didn't really have the time this weekend either but I needed my fix. For days I've been feeling unwell, 'sinusitis' isn't very nice, headaches and congestion, keeps me up at night. Somehow I managed to drag myself out of bed and down to the Marsh for an early morning after the Tench.

I arrived with mist still rising from a lake bathed in weak morning sunlight. A Green Woodpecker laughed as it flew across the water, was it trying to tell me something? For once there was just one other angler at the lake, this would have been normal twelve months ago but alas no more. I settled in a swim on the Northern bank with the southerly wind in my face. To my left is a large reed bed, I cast a method feeder baited with a pop up boilie in front of this and on a second rod another pop up with a PVA bag of pellets close by, at the bottom of the marginal shelf. The plan was to leave the pop up in place but recast the method feeder every now and then, depending on how things went. On a third rod I float fished sweetcorn beside a bed of lily pads close by. This area was baited with a few free offerings of corn plus a couple of handfuls of mixed pellets every now and then.

It was a beautiful morning, sunny with a comfortable temperature and a nice breeze in my face. The Marsh is now in the full green of summer, trees, reeds and lilies, dotted with yellow flowers just opening. I'd deliberately avoided putting out large quantities of groundbait, just little piles of feed that could be topped up as and when, if feeding fish should happen to wander through the swim. Unfortunately I didn't get through too much bait today, just a couple of half hearted pulls and the occasional momentary dip of the float. I'm still struggling to get my head around the Tench's habits in this water, more so this season than last. Twelve months ago, even if I wasn't catching I'd often see tell tail signs, fish rolling or bubbling, not so this year.

I keep hearing the same thing from other anglers on the lake; “Tench fishing is slow this year...” and apparently this season it's worse than ever. I also keep hearing anglers complaining about the number of Otters around these days, maybe the two topics are linked? I saw an Otter at the Marsh a year ago but I've never seen any evidence of wide scale fish kills. I haven't known the water long enough to make comparisons to years gone by however. Last week there was a report on local TV news about habitat improvements designed to make life easier for otters in the Fenlands. Hot on the heels of this followed calls by anglers, (TV 'star' John Wilson included), for action on the 'Otter problem'.

A decade ago it was the Cormorant that was getting the blame for all the ills in angling, in many cases this was for good reason too. Nowadays anglers like to point the finger at immigrant anglers fishing for food and most recently the Otter. We do like to have a ready made excuse for poor fishing but in all cases there is an element of truth. What we need is real evidence as to just how bad the perceived problem is in reality but this type of information will always be difficult to collate.

On balance I think there could well be an 'Otter problem' but calls for a cull are misguided. We'll never win over the opinions of the non angling majority if we start shooting at anything with fur and a face (except perhaps Bill Oddie). Maybe for a few years angling will have to take the hit and face the pain of 'Otter damage' but surely nature will find a balance eventually and Otter numbers will even out? Some fisheries will be forced to erect fences to keep the otters out, this may be expensive but must be seen as an investment. As things stand now, for my liking there are too many Otters about on the waters I fish, I'd like to see their numbers reduced but there's nothing I can do about it. Is the reason I can't catch those bloody Tench? Who knows? It's a bloody good excuse though!

Time passed too quickly, the other angler fishing was already packing up and I hadn't seen him catch anything. I kept looking at my watch, hoping time would slow down but it had the opposite effect. All of a sudden the alarm was sounding and a bobbin was jumping, something was making off with the boilie on the method feeder. I wound down to no resistance but there was something on the end...surely not? Yes, another bloody Roach! Another anti climax, I couldn't help but laugh!

The river season starts in an hour or two but right at this moment I have no plans to fish moving water. I have a bit more free time coming up so will stubbornly continue to pursue those elusive Tench for a week or two.

Wednesday 25 May 2011

Gaining ground

Two more weeks of mostly bright and dry weather has made the East Anglian countryside look parched and arid. The only green left is around the watersides and after two weeks away I made my way back to the Marsh for a couple of hours of much needed relaxation. Today was different weather wise in as much as the wind was a strong South Westerly but otherwise the bright dry conditions continue. Water temperature remains steady at 17 degrees, exactly the same as my last visit a fortnight ago.

After a look around and the discovery of too many cars in the car park I found myself fishing the swamp again. The signs were that it hadn't been fished much since my last visit, no broken down vegetation or any other tell tale give aways. This is becoming a factor as unfortunately angling pressure has become much more intense this season. Where as last year it was rare to find more than a couple of other anglers on the lake, this season it can be hard at times to find a swim. For a while I couldn't for the life of me think of a reason why this might be but then I remembered last autumn there were rumours of a very big Carp being caught. I laughed this off at the time but maybe the tale is true or perhaps there are simply lots of people who think it is.

By 1800 I was settled and fishing. As usual I fished the over hanging trees on each side of the swim. On the left hand rod I had a pop up on an inline rig with a bag of mixed pellets and about twenty 10mm boilies. Bearing in mind how many people are now fishing the water, assuming there's a fair bit of bait going in, I decided it might be a good idea to ease off on the ground baiting a little. On the right I decided to use a method feeder with another pop up on a 3” stiff hooklength. So I had two nice groups of food out which I could top up as and when they needed it, if at all.

The wind made things feel cool but otherwise it was a pleasant evening and I was happy to be fishing again. After about ninety minutes something strange happened, I had a twitchy take on the right hand rod on which I was using the method feeder. I struck out of surprise and desperation as much as anything and was sure I hadn't made contact but was surprised to find a Roach attached! Not even a particularly big Roach either, it would have been a nice livebait come the winter. Twenty minutes later I had a repeat performance and another roach splashed it's way in. This was almost amusing! I had a third take a little later but failed to connect this time.

I noticed the odd fish rolling by the pads and a few bubbles breaking surface every now and then. I couldn't ignore this so quickly set up the float rod fishing corn. I didn't get any takes on this set up but at least the float/leger rig I'd put together got the bait down before the Rudd could polish it off. I was also strangely happy to have caught the Roach on the method feeder. I figured if I was managing to hook relatively small roach on 15mm boilies then this rig would hook a larger fish with a bigger mouth.

The light began to fade and I reluctantly began to pack up. All evening I'd felt I was in with a good chance of a decent fish. Who knows, if I had time to fish all night maybe I would have? I'll never know. Here's to next time.

The most recent 'Pikelines' dropped onto my doormat recently as as usual it was an excellent read. The continuing debate regarding “that book” by Derrick Amies rumbles on and in this issue it is DA responding to John Watson's review that appeared in the February issue. I would have been interested to read Amies' response to the accusations posed by Watto (not to mention those of Stephen Harper and Graham Booth), however instead of defending himself, DA's letter is nothing more than an attack on John Watson. Watto's own book is possibly the best book on Pike fishing ever written and although JW's “who dares wins” attitude may attract criticism by some, he certainly has never been considered dishonest. Derrick Amies has decided that attack is the best form of defence but in this case he is sadly mistaken. I'm still working my way through the magazine but it looks great, as usual worth the PAC membership for the mag alone. To join PAC see the link at the side of the page.

Some good news has come from the Broads Authority at last. The proposed dredging of Heigham Sound will not now take place as the BA has nowhere to dump the silt. Although this may well just be a stay of execution it's still good news. It gives concerned parties more time to lobby people and strengthen the case and it's also hard to see a new dumping site popping up any time soon. I have a feeling that the hard work of John Currie & co. at Norwich PAC has influenced the thinking of certain people too.

Full details here;

I'm also happy to say that my MP, Mr David Ruffley has written to me a couple of times. He has questioned the CEO of the BA John Packman and received a reply which he copied to me. Unfortunately Packman's response trotted out the same old propaganda we've grown accustomed to but I'm glad that the questions are being asked and the BA is feeling the pressure. The war is not over but a battle has been won!

Monday 9 May 2011

This & that...

I needed to get out fishing for a few hours tonight. After another long bank holiday weekend with the children, packed full of fun family things and happy times, followed by too much wine after dark I was suffering with the post booze blues. The only cure for these blues is more booze and a self destructive cycle begins. Been there, done that, learnt my lesson. The kids went to their mothers giving me some time. I couldn't be arsed to get the fishing gear together but I made myself. I arrived at “the Pretty puddle”, pleasantly surprised to find only two other cars parked up. I wandered around aimlessly trying to find a spot where fish were showing but where I could also have some seclusion. I couldn't be arsed, it crossed my mind to clear off home again but I stayed. Eventually I settled into the same swim I'd fished a week previously.

Tactics were the same, feeder on the bush to the left and another rod fishing the overhanging tree opposite, this time I'd remembered how to cast and managed to avoid trees, bushes and all forms of vegetation. Though still sunny the wind was a strong easterly and the temperature was a lot cooler than it had been a week previously. There were far fewer Carp on the surface so I rigged the bottom baits up first before starting to flick a few mixers out every now and again.

There are so many fish in this place, catching is almost a formality and sure enough I soon had fish feeding on the surface and after half an hour had a confident take on a floater which I contrived to miss. Fifteen minutes later the rod cast to the tree roared off. I set the hook and played a small Carp all the way to the net cord before it shed the hook. It was over the net at the time and I had a debate with myself as to whether it 'counted' or not. I decided not. Almost straight away the other rod went but this time the result was disappointing in a way, a Bream of about a pound whichsplashed its way to the bank. I know, I shouldn't be disappointed but I wanted something that pulled back! It took another half an hour before I had another positive take on the floater and a battling Mirror of about five pounds in the net.

After that I decided to concentrate on the boilie rods. At 1920 the rod cast to the tree went off again but I wound down to nothing, the fish had managed to eject the hook. Another twenty minutes later and the same rod was away once more, this time I connected and soon had a small common in the net. Thereafter it went quiet, no more bubbling or swirling over my baited areas so I started feeding floaters again. Soon fish were up and feeding and I'd hooked and lost one within a few minutes. More feed, a little patience and soon more slurping Carp. A few minutes later I hooked another fish which pulled hard trying to reach the snaggy trees but turned just in time. If I'd lost this one I'd have been convinced it was a much bigger fish than the six or seven pound common that ended up in my net.

Daylight was fading and the temperature dropping quickly. I felt much better for my fix and packed up feeling a lot more relaxed than when I'd started out. I've said it before but a couple of hours fishing can 'restore' me as well as eight hours sleep. However, I've had enough of small carp for the time being, time for another crack at the Tench.

A few days later...

The long dry spell continues, this morning it rained for the first time in a month and the rest of the day turned muggy and humid. The Marsh has been very quiet of late, no one seems to have been catching very much at all. Would this increase in temperature change things? I was in no real hurry to get to the lake, just as well as I spent most of the afternoon boiling up particle baits. By 1600 I pulled up in the car park and went for a look around. The place was much greener than it had been a fortnight earlier and the first lily pads were pushing their way through to the surface. I didn't really have any definite plan of where I wanted to fish, at least I didn't think I did. The lake was quite busy but there were a few spots left that I fancied, one in particular but this was in the middle of the boggiest part of the water and therefore uncomfortable. “Stuff it” I thought, “I'll fish it anyway!” By 1715 I was settled in and happy with the choice I'd made. Yes this part of the water is dark and damp, yes the mud absolutely reeks but I can live with that. All of these things make it one of the least fished parts of the lake but I've caught a fish or two here in the past and I felt confident.

There are lovely, fishy looking overhanging trees on either side of this swim with eight feet of water underneath. Close in there's a small bed of lilies too. I baited the left hand tree heavily with the seed mix and fished fake corn and boilie on a 10” hooklength with Hemp in a PVA bag. I decided to bait the tree on the right sparingly with mixed pellets. I'm not sure why, it seemed like a good idea at the time. On this rod I used a pop up on an inline bolt rig. By 1830 I had the bivvy up, everything sorted and was chilling out with a brew when I had a few bleeps on the left hand rod. These didn't develop into anything but I found it encouraging and topped up the groundbait.

I decided to give the float rod a go so put a little groundbait by the lilies and set up slightly over depth with fake corn as bait. Half an hour of being plagued by Rudd was enough, I landed a couple and found it simply impossible to keep the bait in one place. Time for a fry up as the light began to fade and the bats came out to play. By this time the lake was completely full and I was amused by the flashing blue and red lights of a bait boat on the far side of the water. At least this bloke was fishing a spot that would have been a difficult cast...

I recast both rods with fresh baits, topped up the groundbait and settled into my bivvy. By now it was 2130 and with the light virtually gone I decided to close my eyes and get a bit of kip as I fully expected to be up at the crack of dawn, hopefully before...At around 2345 I was awoken from my slumber by a”take”on the right hand rod. I say it was a take but it didn't really 'feel' right and it may have been a bat... Sadly after that all I had was a good night sleep, disturbed only by the odd bleep and a bit of rain in the early hours.

By 0545 I was up and about again, roused by the dawn chorus and a couple of cuckoos. As I was milling around 'something' rolled by the pads, maybe a Tench, if it was a Rudd it was certainly one worth catching. I quickly set the float rod up again on this hazy, cloudy early morning, what would it bring? It brought Rudd, Rudd and more Rudd. Once again it was very difficult to get the bait down and even the fake corn was being taken with gusto. Some kind of float leger rig might have done the trick but I didn't have the necessary bits and pieces to set it up, typical! A few bubbles and rocking lily pads gave me hope so I persevered and at 0700 was rewarded with a sail away bite. I connected to something that felt quite substantial but after a second or two it was gone....

Still the Rudd were attacking my corn but by now they too were being attacked by Pike. Showers of silver shapes were flashing skyward amidst spectacular swirls. Maybe I should clip a trace onto the rod I'd brought for spodding and give it a go with a livebait? By the time I'd had this thought the feeding had virtually stopped and anyway, what would the Pike police say? Instead I watched a Treecreeper make its way up the overhanging branch to my left and continued to enjoy the bird song from all around. A Tern was diving and trying to catch fish as was a Kingfisher in much more subtle style amongst the trees to my right. Out in the middle of the lake, the Grebe which had been sitting on eggs two weeks previously was taking its brood for a tour.

By 0900 I'd virtually given up hope but had nothing else to do for a few hours so had a little change around. I'd been meaning to test out a new method mix for a week or so and now seemed as good a time as any. Happily it mixed up nicely, stuck to the feeder and generally done all that it was supposed to do. At 0930 I was amazed by the sound of a steady take on the left hand rod, at last! I picked up the rod and felt sweet FA, somehow I'd contrived to miss an unmissable take??? Obviously my rigs aren't hooking the fish with the efficiency that someone more experienced than me would expect. I like to learn things on my own, the hard way and I'm certainly doing that!

By the time the clock had ticked around to 1100 I had packed away most of the gear and was sitting in the sun, ready for a quick getaway should the forecast rain appear. I had accepted my fate, another blank but had learnt a little more. Rigs and methods will be modified further and hopefully I'll be back soon!

Thursday 28 April 2011

A walk on the 'Dark side'.

Another week of hot still weather has passed, bringing the water temperatures up nicely. With my fatherly duties over by 3pm I hastily loaded the car and set off for a water I've never fished before. Actually this water used to be controlled by a syndicate and about twenty years ago a mate, “big 'un” & I stumped up the cash and set off for a recce, searching for Carp. We had a walk around, saw a few small carp and left decidedly unimpressed. Eventually our money was returned, we weren't given membership to the syndicate for some reason and that was the last I saw of the place, until today.

Nowadays the water is strictly controlled by a small club. It's quite a nice looking little place but otherwise fulfills all the criteria of a “commercial” type fishery in that it is crammed full of small to medium sized Carp. My “excuse” for fishing here today was to test out a load of new pellets in a variety of styles and flavours produced by “Lake Wizard”. The plan was to fish a method feeder on one rod and a PVA bag set up on the other, chop & change a bit to see what worked etc. However the weather was not really ideal for this style of fishing as the majority of the Carp appeared to be on the surface.

After having a leisurely wander around I could see Carp just about everywhere I looked and quite a few other anglers too. Eventually I settled on a swim in a nice shady bay. This swim ticked two boxes, 1- there were Carp about, 2- there were no other anglers present! I rigged up a method feeder using pre-soaked pellets, baited with a 10mm boilie and chucked it towards some overhanging bushes. What should I do with the other rod? It would be silly to ignore the surface gulping Carp so I chucked a handful of chum mixers out, surely these pressured fish would be wary? No, Carp appeared and slurped them down without a care in the world. Surface fishing used to be my favourite method of catching Carp, in fact I caught my first 'twenty' on a free-lined mixer back in 1985. Through the eighties and early nineties I done loads of floater fishing and know full well how frustrating it can be. Free offerings slurped down with abandon whilst hookbaits are ignored. I fully expected this to be the case today.

I tied a size 12 hook direct to 8lbs mono and baited with a single piece of floating fake corn. The carp were coming in close so there was no need for any casting weight I was able to flick the hook bait the required distance with ease. Another handful of mixers were chucked out and these too began to disappear down greedy mouths. Would my hookbait be taken? Yes, within seconds it was taken confidently and I set the hook into a fish which powered off before shedding the hook in an instance. Bugger! Well that must have pissed on the matches, to coin a phrase. I was sure the fish would have been well spooked now and half heartedly chucked another handful of mixers out. To my surprise these were being slurped down eagerly within seconds. I didn't have long to wait before another take and this time no mistake, after a brief battle a little mirror of about six pounds was in the net. I took a quick photo just in case it was the only fish of the day.

Now that must have spooked the swim? More mixers out and more Carp appeared to eat them without a care in the world. Within a couple of minutes fish number two had taken the bait and actually felt a bit bigger. After a strange fight in the margins I netted one of those funny looking ghostie koi things. A lot of anglers rave on about these but I thing they're just ugly. This one might have made it over the ten pound mark but I couldn't be arsed to weigh it. There were fewer fish around now, perhaps they had spooked or maybe I'd caught the greedy ones? Fish still fed on the mixers but were a tiny bit more hesitant with my hookbait. I dipped the fake corn into a tub of liquid flavouring and out it went again, this seemed to make a difference as within a couple of minutes I hooked a third fish, this time a common which soaked me in the net.

By now I was becoming restless. Yes I was catching fish but I wasn't learning anything about the pellets I was supposed to be trying out. I decided to catch one more fish off the surface before putting all my eggs into one basket and fishing both rods on the bottom. This last fish took longer than expected as I managed to miss two sail away takes yet still couldn't spook the fish in front of me. I'm pretty sure that takes came quicker on freshly 'dipped' baits than when I left it a while. Eventually I hooked and landed another common, a twin of the previous one, surely not the same fish? I'm pretty sure I could have continued catching like this all evening but it held no challenge. In just over an hour I'd caught more carp than in the previous decade.

I replaced the floater rod with a heli rig and a PVA bag full of pellets and concentrated on two bottom fished rods. There were loads of fish in front of me and my left hand rod was continually beeping. Almost certainly liners but I couldn't be arsed to back lead. Eventually I had a proper take and hooked into another Carp but this shed the hook after a second or two. I felt a greater sense of anticipation hovering over twitching indicators than I had watching Carp slurp down the floaters. The light began to fade, a water vole hurried along the margins in front of me and an 'orrible big brown rat ran down the footpath. I had to be somewhere so started packing up. An enjoyable couple of hours all told, not really my cup of tea but I'm sure I'll be back as it's a good place for the family to learn a little more.

And a few days later I returned, this time in the company of my better half, giving her the chance to catch something that pulled back rather more than the small silver fish she has become quite adept at catching. The day had been another warm, sunny one but a fresh Northerly wind had blown up as the afternoon had progressed. We arrived in the late afternoon and had a leisurely stroll around. There were a few other anglers about but we found a nice comfortable swim, out of the way, big enough for two and with a few fish showing.

My tactics for the night were to fish with two rods on the lake bed, despite the amount of carp cruising around on the surface. I fished a boilie/fake corn combination plus a PVA bag of mixed pellets to an overhanging tree opposite me. Also a cage feeder stuffed with pre soaked pellets and the same boilie rig was dropped beside a bush along the bank to the left. I did set up a floater rod too but this would be for Shelley to use. I began feeding with 4 or 5 chum mixers chucked out every minute or two and it wasn't long before these were being sucked down. However the Carp were a little more wary tonight, having been hammered for four days of a bank holiday weekend. Also there was a large amount of floating debris which made keeping an eye on the bait almost impossible. In the end I had to resort to attaching a small float as an indicator and using a larger flavoured floater made by 'Lake Wizard'. Shelley at this point was wandering around the banks with her camera looking for photo opportunities.

I couldn't resist having a go and it didn't take long before I had two small commons on the bank. By this time Shelley was back and I handed the rod over to her. There then followed a frustrating half hour with several near misses and a couple of lost fish before she set the hook into a Carp that stayed on. After that it was pretty much plain sailing for Shelley she hooked and lost a couple but did a good job in landing four fish in total, the best around six pounds. All the Carp were considerably larger than the silver fish she'd caught in the past.

As for me, well I had one of those days. I forgot how to cast, or more to the point I forgot how to avoid trees. I swear if I was fishing from a boat a mile into the sea I'd have found a way to cast up a tree. Maybe I should get a bait boat? NO!!! When I got it right I managed to catch a couple of fish on the bottom baits. There was one spot in particular, beneath an overhanging branch that produced a take within minutes if I could get the cast right... I also sneaked another fish on the floater rod before the end. We packed up with the light fading and the temperature dropping quickly, the recent hot spell had come to an abrupt end.

So after two evenings on a 'commercial' type water have I changed my mind about this type of fishing? Well yes and no. It is good fun for a couple of hours, if (& only if) you're catching and a good way to share some fishing with the family. It doesn't hold enough of a challenge for me though, for example, having caught a couple of fish on floaters I'd lose interest in that method. I know I'd get thoroughly pissed off if I fished when it was really busy too. One thing in particular struck me, this water has rules to safe guard the fish, i.e. no keep nets, barbless hooks only and so on. However, almost all the Carp I caught this weekend showed signs of wear and tear, damaged mouths, flanks or fins. Overall it is what it is, for the most part it's fun.

Sunday 24 April 2011


Another hot, still day had pushed the water temperature up to 19*c by the time I arrived at “The Marsh”. The lake was empty so I had the pick of swims and opted for 'the point' on the east bank. I was happy, as I'd whiled away the hours at work, this was the spot I'd wanted to fish, I had what I wanted to do all worked out. I used 10mm boilies, balanced with fake corn on 10” coretex hooklengths with heli rigs. To my left was a tiny bay of about two feet deep that is shaded with Alders and fringed with reeds. I baited the entrance to this with a carpet of hemp, attached a PVA bag of hemp & hemp pellets and dropped this on the spot. To my right about twenty metres away is an area of emerging weed. I baited the edge of this with about a kilo of mixed halibut pellets, filled a PVA bag with more pellets and plopped this rig on the edge of the growing weed. Two rods out and fishing, now it was time to assemble the rest of my tackle and prepare for the night.

I laid out the unhooking mat between the rods with the landing net on top. Erected the bivvy and sorted everything out ready for the night ahead. The last trip a fortnight previously had swept away the cobwebs and for once I felt better organised than ever before. Time for a fry up, now where's me lighter? Bugger, no lighter = no food! So much for being organised! After an hour I had a couple of blips on the alarm of the hemp rod. Probably a liner, despite the back lead. This place is absolutely teeming with silver fish making the use of maggots and corn for Tench, sometimes impossible. Another hour passed and hallelujah! I found an old lighter in my bag, sausage sarnies were on the menu after all!


By 2130 both rods had been recast with fresh baits and the groundbait had been topped up. A good sized fish rolled to my right, over the area baited with pellets, a good sign! It was virtually dark, stars were pricking out of the sky and bats were swooping around all over. With nothing else to do I settled down into my kip back and chilled out, eyes closed listening to the sounds of the countryside around me. Will a fish disturb me tonight?

Around midnight I was startled awake by a sharp pull on the right hand rod. Maybe a liner but possibly an aborted take? Something told me it was the latter. I dozed a while longer but was awake by 2am. I decided to check the right hand rod, no tangle. I rebaited, fresh bag of pellets then the rig was dropped back on the spot and I got back into my kip bag. I couldn't sleep, somewhere out there came the sound of a motor. It sounded suspiciously like a 0215 in the morning???? Who? Were? and Why? The mind boggled....

Sleep overtook me once more until a few bleeps on the hemp rod roused me around 0500. The dawn chorus was in full flow and the first cuckoo of the year was calling enthusiastically. I rolled out of the bag and went through the drill of rebaiting and re-groundbaiting both the rods. It was a bit chilly so I climbed back into my bag again, disappointed the dark hours had failed to produce but still optimistic that the early morning period might see a fish appear.

By 0830 I was up and about again. I'd pretty much conceded defeat but kept on trying regardless. The left hand rod was cast further along the bank towards an overhanging tree and I set up a float rod baited with fake corn which I fished on the area I'd been baiting with hemp all night. I did have a bite or two on this rod but these were missed and Rudd were almost certainly the culprits. The sun shone strongly and I sat cooking breakfast, reflecting on what I was doing wrong? Last spring I'd learnt the hard way that although maggots, casters and corn are very good Tench baits, in this water they won't last five minutes before being decimated by the shoals of sliver fish. I've almost been forced to go with the boilie approach but this has worked on every other water I've fished for Tench. Are my rigs just not hooking the fish? I'd prefer shorter hooklengths but these may see my hookbait disappear into the silt. Questions, questions.

One of the regulars wandered around for a chat and informed me the lake had been busy earlier in the week but nothing of note had been caught. Despite the warm weather this spring the fishing had been slow. Maybe I'm not doing much wrong? Keep faith, keep doing what I'm doing? Time will tell. By midday the sun was high and it was becoming uncomfortably hot. I had a proper sweat on by the time I'd lugged all my gear back to the car. It'll probably be another couple of weeks before I return to the Marsh and I've got plenty to think about until then.