Sunday 27 April 2014

Isaac 2 Dad 0

The day had been a disappointment, dull, damp and drizzly, not what we wanted for a Saturday.  However the afternoon saw the cloud breaking and eventually the sun poked through the clouds.  In the early afternoon Isaac and I headed out to a local stillwater with a lure rod each trying to repeat his success of last time.  We tackled up in the car park, I took the lid off the lure box and Isaac reached for the Wagtail straight away, he’s a fast learner…  I started off with a ½ oz spinnerbait which I figured would be just the job for fishing around the emerging lilies. 

The lake was busier this week so we tried to give the camping carpers a wide berth and had to skip a few swims on our travels.  I was pleased to see Isaac’s casting has become a lot more consistent in terms of direction but he doesn’t always get the timing right, the lure sometimes went high in the air before slapping down on the water.  This doesn’t bother the Pike though, in our third swim I heard the shout “Dad!!!!”  Something had engulfed the Wagtail!  The clutch ticked a little but the Pike wasn’t a monster and I soon had it scooped up in the net, Isaac beamed and we ‘high fived’.  The hooks came out easily but there was a problem, someone else’s trace was disappearing down the Pike’s throat.  With Isaac’s help I managed to remove this without too much trouble and after a quick photo we returned the fish which thankfully swam away strongly.

Accidents happen in fishing, tackle does get left in fish from time to time, if we’re honest all of us have done it at some time.  That said I find it very difficult to see how a deadbait trace could wind up in the throat of this particular Pike.  It had given Isaac a great deal of pleasure and excitement but it was only a small one of a couple of pounds.

With Isaac taking a fish on a curly tailed lure and nothing to my spinnerbait I rummaged in the box and selected a springdawg before we moved on.  All the swims we fished had weed, overhangs or features of some sort, they looked really Pikey but the fish hadn’t read the script.  We passed another carper who looked nervously as we whizzed lures around in nearby swims but was friendly enough and wished us well. 
Towards the end of the bank was a really nice looking area with an island, a bay and loads of lilies.  It was here that my rod slammed over as something nailed the springdawg.  I shouted to the wandering Isaac to get the net ready as I brought a nice sized fish close to the bank where it swirled, turned and spat the lure back at me.  I managed not to swear…  A couple of swims later the springdawg was chomped again but the fish only stayed on for a second or two this time.  In the last swim on this bank my lure went solid again but this time it was a heavy snag.  I managed to get it moving and a large branch began to rise out of the water, then this went solid and…. The strain became too much, my old and much used 6’6” Abu rod snapped. 

Isaac was content with his Pike so we brought our trip to a close.  I do have a bit of a daft sentimental attachment to some of my fishing gear, old rods in particular but not this one for some reason, I was more annoyed about losing two fish!  Isaac spent the journey home reminding me that he’d caught the only fish, again!  I love seeing him catch but I wouldn’t mind putting a Pike in the net myself sometime soon!

Monday 21 April 2014

Pride Cometh...

My spring and summer will mostly take place on two waters.  The first is my favourite place to fish at this time of year, it’s a beautiful place to spend time but the fishing is difficult.  Every year I start off full of confidence, just knowing this will be the season that I finally crack ‘The Marsh’ and unlock its secrets.  Every year I come back down to earth with a crash after a few blanks.  A night spent in a favourite swim saw me doing everything right, good bait on efficient rigs cast bang on the spots I wanted them on.  The session passed with a couple of half-hearted bream pulls and a good night sleep.  The Marsh has drawn first blood but I will be back.

My second water is considerably easier and I expect to catch fish here.  I’ve managed to squeeze in a couple of short evening sessions this past week.  On both occasions I managed to locate fish and I get baits out quietly but both times nothing picked my bait up, unless you count a rather irate Mallard.  I could see Carp moving about but they seemed spooky and unsettled.  I don’t think I’ve done much wrong because no one else seems to be catching either.  Or perhaps it’s the fishing Gods taking revenge for all the “Carp are easy” grief I’ve been giving my mates?  At this rate I'll soon be fishing a third, even easier water.  It hasn’t been all Carp/Tench fishing though…
 A couple of hours of free time in the spring sunshine gave me and Isaac the perfect opportunity to venture out with a lure rod each.  The venue was a pit at which I’ve spent thousands of hours in the past but not for over two decades!  I knew the northern end used to be shallow and weedy, I expected the first lilies of spring to be pushing through and I was right.  This should provide perfect cover for us to fish our lures around.  I started off with a Zoota Wagtail, a cracking little lure that has caught me loads of Pike over the years.  Isaac clipped on his Angry bird and we commenced fishing.

The plan was simple, a few casts in each swim then we’d move on to the next.  I gave Isaac first go in each spot as I really wanted him to get into a fish today.  Despite this it was my Wagtail that got hit first but the small fish threw the hooks.  A couple of swims later the Wagtail was followed in by another Jack.  Meanwhile Isaac’s Angry bird hadn’t been touched and he hinted at a swap.  How could I say no?  Eventually the Wagtail was nailed properly and Isaac managed to haul a small Pike into the waiting net, his first Pike of the year was cause for a big grin for the camera!

After that Isaac switched back to his Angry bird and I had another go with the Wagtail.  We retraced our steps towards the car with a cast here and there.  One more Pike swirled at the lure but I couldn’t hook up, it didn’t matter at all, we’d achieved what we set out for.

Friday 11 April 2014

Tarka is a thug!

I dragged myself out of bed at 0530, wolfed down a quick breakfast while the kettle boiled, filled the flask and went off to the lake.  I arrived to find I had the place to myself so dropped into my first choice swim and had two rods out by 0600.  A helicopter rig was cast to the reedbed and landed right on the second attempt.  This was topped up with 20 or so freebies scattered over the area.  The nesting Grebe was a bit miffed by the disturbance but tried to ignore me.  My second rod was a chod rig and a longer, more difficult cast which I managed to land spot on first time.  This area was well out of range of the catapult but I was happy to leave it like this, just a single hookbait on its own.  Experience has taught me that fish often feed along this bank in the early morning period, hopefully one would find my bait.

It was a cool morning with a clear sky and a flat calm lake, the scene before me was familiar yet still beautiful.  The hedgerows are full of blossom and trees are showing the first green leaves.  In the swampy areas Marsh Marigold is pushing through with its yellow flowers in places, all around me the first signs of spring are a good two weeks earlier than the horrible cold season we had last year.  The lake looked good too, the calm surface had frothy patches of burst bubbles where fish had been grubbing around overnight, hopefully they would still be around?

I like to travel light when fishing and sit still and quiet so the wildlife often comes close, the Grass Snake from last time being a prime example.  This morning’s visitor was not as welcome.  I know I should feel privileged to see an Otter at close quarters but the novelty has worn off.  This one swam towards me without a care in the world, it didn’t know I was there until I deliberately moved to scare it off.  Seconds later there was a commotion by the Grebes nest, the bird was squawking madly and flapped away from the nest in obvious distress.  I stood up knowing what I would see, sure enough the Otter was swimming away from the nest with something in its mouth.  I’m not sure whether it was an egg or a chick but it was pale in colour and there will be one less Grebe on the water this year.  Actually I doubt I’ll see any young Grebes at all here this spring.

Half an hour after starting a good sized Carp leapt twice in the open water in front of me so I quickly rigged another chod up and dropped it on the spot first time.  Once again this spot was out of catapult range but I wasn’t bothered by this at all.  I’ve learnt that fish can find a single hookbait and I’m confident fishing this way, maybe because so many others don’t?
The morning wore on and by 0800 a breeze had sprung up.  A few bubble patches had risen up and I’d seen a Tench roll off the snags but no sound from the indicators, the signs were still good.  I fished on for another hour but the fishy activity decreased.  I’d begun the morning with optimism but by the time this short session had finished I’d had a reminder that this is a difficult water, the residents make the angler work hard for any success.  I must stick to the plan and keep trying!!
So Otters… What can I say that I haven’t said already?  Very little.  There was a thread on the ‘Pikers pit’ forum recently (see link on the right) which questioned anglers experiences of Otters in Scotland and Ireland where populations have remained constant over the last fifty years or so.  It seems that in these areas Otter sightings are rare and there is no great problem, nature has found a balance.  In southern England where Otters were virtually extinct we now have an unexplainable growth in numbers.  We are told that no Otters have been bred for release in the wild since 1999 yet how do we explain the numbers of them around now if man has not intervened?  The source for this data is Natural England/English Nature (there was a name change and I can’t remember which one is current), an organisation that I am suspicious of at the best of times.  With the evidence presented it seems there must have been more Otters bred and released in the past fifteen years, I can think of no other explanation.  Either Natural England/English Nature are lying or Otters are being reared and released without their knowledge.

In my neck of the woods I’m sure there were Otters present in the mid-nineties but they remained elusive, the evidence was there without actual sightings to back it up.  Now I know the signs I can recall experiences back then that I could not explain at the time.  I once had a deadbait picked up with line ripped from the spool.  By the time I wound down my line had gone through a tree, above the water and my tackle was on the bank!  I suppose it could have been a diving bird but moving at that speed?  I seriously doubt it.  Otter numbers have boomed over the last five years and there has been a dramatic change in the freshwater ecology.  This is obvious because we have an apex predator at large that is protected by law and itself has no natural predator.  A decade ago we had excellent Tench fishing in the Gipping valley and almost all the stillwaters held Pike of over twenty pounds in weight.  Nowadays big Pike are rare as rocking horse shit in this part of Suffolk and anyone who reads this blog will know how scarce Tench have become.  I’m not that bad at catching them honest!

In 1980 Chris Yates caught the first ever British fifty pound plus Carp and this began an era when all the records for major freshwater species climbed substantially.  By 2005 the Carp record had risen to over 60lbs.  In the 30 years since Yates’ fish the record for Tench went from around ten pound to over fifteen, Barbel from 13+ pounds to over twenty, Bream from 13+ to nearly twenty pounds.  These big fish are not just ‘one offs’ either.  Fifty pound Carp, double figure Tench, Fifteen plus Bream and Barbel are all reported regularly in the angling press, from a variety of waters too.  In 1980 there had been only one fully authenticated Pike of over forty pounds but in the quarter of a century that followed there were over twenty. 

Is it a coincidence that this period of rising records was a time when Otter numbers were very low?  Does the “success” of the Otter in recent years mean the end of a golden period of specialist angling in the UK?

Tuesday 8 April 2014

Politics & stuff...

A decade ago my local angling club bent its own constitution and imposed a livebait ban on its members, despite the opposition put up by myself and other PAC members. I allowed my membership to lapse and had no intention of renewing. Times have changed and the club is run by a much fairer and more forward thinking group of individuals and I am happy to be a member these days.

This week saw the clubs AGM and I (& a couple of likeminded others) felt obliged to try and get livebaiting reinstated once again. Now I didn’t really believe this would happen but a sense of principle meant I had to have a go. To cut a long story short I was proved right. Whereas years ago it was the match angler that would be the natural ‘enemy’ of the Piker, most of the opposition came from Carp anglers who are afraid that Pikers transporting livebaits could spread disease and kill ‘their fish’. We pointed out that anyone breaking an EA law would not think twice about breaking a club rule but to no avail. The debate got a little heated and I did feel like a pantomime villain at times but it was generally polite. Some of the counter arguments presented were bizarre at best and in other circumstances would have been hilarious!

I find it highly ironic that I know of absolutely NO previous examples of Pikers spreading disease through moving livebaits yet this very club lost a lot of Carp in the early nineties because Carp anglers were moving fish around!

So our proposal got voted down but at least we tried and this time it was done fairly, within the clubs constitution and I can live with that. We did however get another rule into the book making Pike angling lure only between April and October. This was introduced as a conservation measure as it should ensure Pike are kept out of the water for a minimum period of time in the warmer months when they are most vulnerable. This was almost unanimously approved with only one ‘hilarious’ dissenter….

Back to the real thing…
Time has been short so far this spring. I’ve spent quite a bit of time walking the banks of my local waters looking here and there for signs of fish but very little time fishing. However a chance to get out for a few hours appeared this past weekend.

I found myself at a local water expecting there to be a work party but there was no one about and I found myself standing in a favourite swim with the fresh south west wind blowing into my face. I expected to see Carp and I did, literally right under my feet. I had planned to go elsewhere for the evening but with fish in the bay and no other anglers around it was too good an opportunity to miss. So by 1630 I had two heli/snowman rigs dropped close in under overhanging trees either side of the swim with a handful of boilies chucked on top of each. I’d bought a new carp rod over the winter, 2 ½ lb test curve rods are hard to find these days but I managed to find a nice looking one marketed by 30plus. Matt black and very thin compared to my familiar old rods, it would be interesting to see how it performed.

With the rods out I settled back in my chair and watched the water.   I began seeing fish almost straight away, rolling out in the open water as well as close in by the snags.  A couple of other anglers arrived and began fishing for the evening, no one seemed to take any time to find fish, they just found a swim and began fishing.  Had anyone looked in the bay they would have been sure to see the fish in here, maybe they know something I don’t?  While I was relaxing I noticed a movement to my right, a large Grass Snake slithered out of the undergrowth and was heading straight for me then abruptly stopped, recoiled and slowly vanished back into the bushes.  I managed to snap a quick photo on my phone but I don’t have the technical knowhow to post that up here.  Later in the session I saw it swim across the front of my swim but once again I was too late with the camera.

The evening was grim with murky cloud and the occasional spot of rain but the day was brightened by a take on my right hand rod after only an hour.  I plunged the tip under water and held on. This was the new rod which absorbed the lunges of this angry fish, desperate to bury itself into the sunken branches.  After what seemed a long time I won the battle and the fish swam clear of the snags.  It refused to give up though and battled it out on the surface for some time making me wonder if the new rod didn’t have quite enough backbone?  Eventually I netted a plump common which was in good nick and had a vivid yellow belly.  It felt heavy in the net but didn’t weigh as much as I thought it might, still I had my first Carp of the year under my belt.

I soon had the rod back out with another handful of freebies chucked on top and once again settled back with a brew to watch the water.  It was interesting that the more I watched, the more my eyes became ‘tuned in’ to what was going on and the more fish I saw.  I couldn’t resist setting up a third rod with a PVA bag and casting it out to the open water area where Carp were rolling regularly.  It occurred to me that the fish may be up in the water and a Zig rig might have been more effective but with time and daylight beginning to run out I stuck to the boilies.

In hindsight this may have been a mistake as despite the bay holding plenty of fish I failed to catch any more.  Seeing Carp but not catching them was something I became very used to in my first spell of carping back in the eighties and nineties.  I don’t want to get used to it again, next time it will be out with the dreaded zig!