Wednesday 20 February 2013

Ice caps and dirty mags...

There’s no point in trying to hurry Isaac in the mornings, as much as he’s been enjoying fishing lately he won’t be getting out of bed early! To be honest a mid-morning start suited me fine too, I rarely take the chance to have a lazy morning. When I finally stumbled out of the back door it was a bit of a surprise to see that there’d been a heavy frost overnight. No matter, the sun was out and the temperature was rising, it was a crisp clear winter’s day. The second surprise of the day occurred when we arrived at the waterside, the lake was frozen over! I pitied the poor Carp angler bivvied up, he’d have an even bigger surprise when he finally unzipped and peered out! We considered driving around and trying our luck elsewhere but it was unlikely we’d find anywhere suitable to fish so headed home disappointed.

Having reversed the timetable for the day Isaac and I returned to the lake in the early afternoon to find the ice had cleared. We dropped into a familiar swim and spread our deadbaits around. Isaac’s casting was a little rusty but after a couple of false starts he managed to place his mackerel nicely in the deep water in front of a reed bed. I fished similar methods and once settled we sat back in our chairs to wait. At least I did, Isaac was full of energy today and couldn’t sit still. He was splashing in the flooded margins, climbing in the trees and the flow of speech was nonstop. He probably scared every Pike for a mile but at least he was having fun! We stayed for a couple of hours and to be honest I didn’t feel we were ever going to catch anything. The temperature dropped quickly as the light faded and we both agreed we’d had enough. No Pike today but having achieved his target a few weeks ago, Isaac is very relaxed about catching another. He’s looking forward now to warmer weather and a different type of fishing, if the truth be known, so am I. However, there is unfinished business elsewhere…

I get to read almost all of the monthly angling publications and they are a right mixture of good, bad and indifferent. I like anecdotal writing and for this the Carp mags are miles ahead of the rest in my opinion, Carpworld and Carpology in particular are excellent. I won’t name the bad but DHP publishes its fair share. The “indifferent” covers most of the rest of the monthlies of all types. I can usually find an article or two in each mag that takes my fancy and authors such as Dave Lane, Neville Fickling, Nigel Sharp, Mick Brown, Stef Horak and Paul Forward stand out from the crowd. By their very nature magazines like “Improve your Coarse fishing” have to cover all disciplines so there will always be articles that don’t appeal to me, each to their own.

I find it hard to take some authors seriously because they just don’t have the experience to really understand their sport, they simply aren’t old enough. Sure these youngsters may have caught a few good fish and fair play to them for that but time on the bank over many seasons can’t be equalled. Writers need to have an ‘X factor’ and for me that X is experience. Most of these younger writers do little more than trot out the same old tired angling clich├ęs and the poorer Carpy mags are the worst for this; “feel for the donk”, “one toner”, “I set my traps”, “trickling a bit of bait in”. and just about every fish is described as “stunning”, er… I beg to differ! I suppose many young anglers aspire to be sponsored by a leading company and splashed all over the mags, be careful what you wish for.

The thing that bugs me the most are the articles that are little more than an advertorial, rammed with plugs for products sold by the writer’s employers. I know this has been going on in the Carp and mainstream magazines for years but I now see it sneaking into Pike fishing articles, there’s a dreadful example of this by Jon Neafcy in the latest TCF. I don’t know Jon personally but I’m led to believe he’s a nice guy but c’mon!! Many of these sponsored anglers jump ship from one company to another more often than some anglers change their underwear; they lose any credibility they may have along the way. Every time I read something by a sponsored or employed angler I have to ask myself; “Do I trust what this person is saying?” Unfortunately on many occasions I don’t.

Talking of TCF there was a very poor article in the February edition, not so much for the way it was written but for the dangerous advice it was giving. The author Dan Sales, was advocating using a fluorocarbon trace for Zander fishing on a river that also holds a good head of Pike. Dan says "Lots of people will moan about a fluorocarbon link..." I won't disappoint him, people will moan with good reason, it’s totally irresponsible on this kind of fishery. Dan tells us why himself; "If I do get a Pike I rarely get a bite off…". Rarely? Surely once is too often! With all the measures anglers take to avoid leaving Carp trailing rigs does Dan Sales think it's OK to leave one in a Pike? Apparently Mr Sales has “Years of guiding on the Ebro” (according to the mag he’s 28…) but this is irrelevant in a water where Pike are present. He also recommends using ten pound mainline too which is just unnecessary and irresponsible again. I did write to the editor pointing out that this isn't good advice for a magazine to be publishing; I wasn’t surprised that I didn’t get a reply.

Sadly the nature of our sport makes it very difficult to write good articles about Pike fishing, even sadder that Pike & Predators doesn’t even seem to try these days. If the publishers really understood the sport they wouldn’t print venue guides!  Steve Rowley's "Esoxworld" is only available as an Emagazine but this proves it is possible to make a good Pike angling magazine, however I can't help thinking that somebody is missing a trick here...

So if you want to read good educational and anecdotal writing from genuine anglers who have no commercial tie ins, ulterior motives or hidden agendas, check the blog list on the right of this page.

Monday 11 February 2013

Plan B

Should I go and take the boat out? Every weather forecast I looked at was different but the worst case scenario was -2 overnight, followed by 20mph Easterlies and a potential blizzard for the afternoon and evening. The very fact that I was undecided was the thing that made up my mind, usually I can’t wait to get out in the boat. If the forecasts are wrong I’ll be cursing.

I needed a fix of fishing so swapped the boat kit for the bank gear and made plans to fish a elsewhere. I hadn’t seen the river in daylight for a while, what state would it be in? Would the stillwaters be frozen? Of the two I fancied the latter but hedged my best and the final decision could be made in the morning.

In the shed it turned out it had not been home to a family of mice as none were caught in the traps. The culprit has to have been a rat or rats. I speak in the past tense because the poison hasn’t been eaten lately and the chewing has stopped. Last week I spoke to the guy who does the pest control at work and he told me it’s been the worst winter for rats that he’s ever known. He puts it down to the horrendous wet weather but it must have been good for business.

I set my alarm for an early start but kept hitting the snooze button, my bed was just too warm and comfortable. I think I’m turning into a Pike angler that hates the winter. I eventually staggered out, filled the flasks and set off for a destination I rarely fish but one I fancied none the less. For some reason I expected a bright, breezy morning, (I’d even packed my sunglasses) but the day was cold, murky and damp with a freshening South Easterly wind. I’d made a good decision by not roving on the river today! I settled into a swim from which I’ve caught the odd fish in the past but had the wind blowing rain and sleet right into my chops. By 0800 I had a float legered Bluey dropped at the bottom of a marginal shelf to my right and a popped up Mackerel cast along the margins to my left. My intention was to gradually twitch this bait back towards me. With rods out and net set up my pop up shelter got a rare outing, the weather was brutal and a comfortable camp was essential.

A couple of hours passed, I’d retrieved and recast the pop up rig and swapped a Herring for the Bluey on the margin rod. The discarded bait was chopped up and thrown towards the float. I’d seen no sign of any kind of fish but still felt I was in with a chance. My view was restricted by my bivvy door but I was able to enjoy watching the birdlife around me. All the usual waterside birds put in an appearance, notably the Heron, a Kingfisher and what can only have been an Egret flying over. Flocks of Long tailed Tits chirped in the trees around me and amongst them was something different. Was it another smaller species of Tit? It flew into a branch close by and stayed long enough for me to identify it, the flash on its head the giveaway, Britain’s smallest bird the Goldcrest. As usual my camera was well out of reach and the bird didn’t hang around long enough for me to get a picture.

By late morning the rain had largely passed over and conditions were a little more comfortable. The wind was pushing nicely into my area and was surely creating a nice undertow, dispersing the scents from my baits? I like using float leger rigs, particularly when using an un-weighted, bottom attached float. Despite the constant movement of the float riding the waves, when a Pike picks up the bait and the float jags, you know it’s a take straight away. This was the case at 1120 when my herring was picked up, the float stabbed then slowly slid away down the slope. I was at the rod before the line pulled out of the clip, dropped the net beside me, wound down and bent into a Pike. The rod stayed bent indicating I hadn’t hooked a jack and not knowing much about the Pike in this place it could be anything on the end? After a couple of spirited runs I soon had the fish on the surface then sliding into the net. Not the unknown monster I’d hoped for but a beautifully marked double figure fish. Bank fishing is so much less demanding than being in the boat so it was no effort to rest the fish in the net for a couple of minutes while I set the camera up for a quick self-take photo. With this achieved a nice fat fish was returned. If all the Pike in this water are this shape then who knows…?

I recast another Herring then settled back into my bivvy with a celebratory cup of tea. A result of sorts, one I’d probably have settled for when I set off this morning but where there’s one there could be more? I kept twitching the pop up rod and chucked a bit more chopped bait next to my float. The waves continued to crash into my swim and I still felt I was in with another chance but time passed, more storm clouds began to gather and I decided to beat a hasty retreat. This was not what I’d expected to be doing, going into the weekend but I’d enjoyed a bit of fishing somewhere different. The children are with me next weekend, maybe Isaac and I could have a try here or should we have another go at the Marsh?

Finally news came through earlier this week that Terry Lampard had died suddenly. Terry has to be one of the greatest all round anglers we’ve ever seen and this is a sad loss. RIP.