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.