Thursday 28 August 2014

What next?

Bank holiday weekend loomed with the opportunity to spend another night at the Marsh, one I couldn’t miss.  The last time I fished I knew exactly where I wanted to be but on this occasion I arrived with no preconceptions.  Shelley was with me so we wandered around trying to find some fish and a comfortable swim we could both fish from.  Unfortunately the lake was busy cutting down our options considerably but we managed to find a nice swim that would be on the end of the wind, which was forecast to change completely overnight.

We were set up by 1300, sharing a couple of rods fishing boilies to a bed of lilies and a third baited with fake corn just of a point in the reeds to my left.  The two areas were baited with mixed pellets of all sizes and types, sprayed with a catapult regularly throughout the afternoon and evening.  I knew some of the pellets would be eaten by silver fish but any fish feeding was fine by me, hopefully they’d encourage bigger species to join in.  Meanwhile I’d quietly build up a bit of feed in the swim without causing any disturbance.  That was the plan at least…  I left the sweetcorn at home this week because I just couldn’t be arsed with catching silver fish, I just wanted to chill out.

The afternoon passed quietly but around 1700 a few patches of bubbles started to appear, although this is so common it’s ridiculous it’s usually encouraging at least.  At 1830 I had a twitchy take on the close in rod and hooked into a fish but what kind?  Once it became aerial it was obviously a jack Pike which managed to unhook itself and attach my rig to the lilies. The rig was tangled so it was a good time to change the fake corn for a snowman rig.  Shelley went off on the run to the chippy and I repositioned the other rods for the night, switching one from a chod to a helicopter.  The darkness began to creep over us, it seems to happen so early now, autumn is well on the way.  A decent fish crashed near the pads and the ever present bubbles were rising, things were looking nice.  Then a group of anglers arrived and proceeded to noisily set up in the swims behind us. Many of the swims on this water are so isolated it feels like you have the lake to yourself, no matter how many are fishing.  Our choice for tonight wasn’t one of them.  They were nice enough people but loud.  The ambience was shattered and for some reason my confidence evaporated.  
 It grew cool so we kipped down in the warm bivvy long before midnight, for once I fell into a sound sleep and didn’t stir until a series of beeps on the left hand rod cast to the pads.  By the time I reached the rod nothing was happening and I guessed it was a liner.  It was 0430 and the sky was beginning to brighten, should I settle down on the chair and watch the dawn or go back to the cosy bivvy?  I knew I should do the former but opted for the latter.

It was another couple of hours before another liner lured me from the bivvy, I put the kettle on then recast all three rods with fresh hookbaits.  The lake was still, hardly anything stirred, when would the wind change?  A quick look around revealed every single peg had an angler present, it didn’t look good.   The anglers behind us were stirring just as noisily as they had settled.  An hour or so later Shelley emerged from the bivvy and I put the stove on for breakfast.  The new wind sprung up and I began to see more and more bubbles fizzing on the surface.  Things now looked better than they had at any point since we had arrived but I couldn’t help feeling that it just wasn’t going to happen.  The morning passed without incident and with heavy rain forecast we were happy to leave the Marsh at lunchtime.  This week we got our timing right, it was so wet there wasn’t even any cricket to pass the time.

That might be it as far as Tench & Carp fishing goes this year, certainly at the Marsh.  I’ll probably have time for another night soon but I feel like having a change of scenery.  The Marsh is usually busy in the spring but quieter in high summer, this year it has been busy all the way through.  I don’t mind difficult fishing but I can’t stand crowded waters and after a few seasons fishing the Marsh I fancy a change for a year or two. 

It’s also getting on for the time of year when I start thinking about Pike fishing and I’m really looking forward to the autumn and winter this season.  What should I do before now and then?  

Good stuff.

I’ve been using a Fox “Specialist compact” rucksack for about 18 months now and it’s perfect for most of the bank fishing I do these days.  When I’m not fishing overnight I like to travel as light as possible so I can move quickly when necessary.  What I put in the bag depends on the season and what I’m fishing for.  The main compartment (35 litres) takes a large float tube, Flask, mug, camera, food, bait and any bulky items.  The front pouch holds a large, flat tackle box.  There are two small side pouches, one takes little tackle boxes of leads & stuff I need to get to quickly and the other holds tea bags, sugar, milk and a spoon.  The large side pouch holds a large rig bin and other bits & pieces, e.g. in summer pop ups & dips.  This pouch has elastic loops on the outside that carry bank sticks & forceps.  Basically it carries everything I need for a short, mobile session.  Loaded up it’s comfortable to carry and doesn’t give my back any grief, well padded with good thick straps and a belt that goes round the waist.  You can also get a matching ‘specialist’ unhooking mat which clips to straps on the top but I haven’t bothered as yet as I can stuff my folding mat in the straps anyway.

I also have a Fox “Specialist Adjusta level chair” which I’ve used for a couple of years if my memory serves.  It has simple folding legs, so there’s no faffing about with individual legs.  It’s very comfortable with good padding and I’ve managed to fall asleep on it when I’ve got up for dawn.  There’s also a shoulder strap that takes the strain and frees up a hand.  Sometimes the combination of rucksack and shoulder straps doesn’t work but with this combination I find it comfortable.  So when I’m travelling light I have rucksack and chair on my back/shoulders and my rods and net banded together in one hand leaving the other free for something useful…  Fox make some bloody good fishing tackle these days and these two bits of kit are well designed and show no signs of weakness after a good, sustained test.  If you scrolled back to the top of the page and squint, you might just about make out both the rucksack and chair in action, if it wasn’t for the sun in your eyes.  Alternatively click the link to the Fox website and have a little look around for all the info.

Sunday 10 August 2014

Trying to beat Bertha

For the first time since the middle of May I actually had time to spend a weekend at the Marsh.  I’d originally planned to arrive after work on Friday evening but a stormy forecast put me off.  The forecast for Sunday was dodgy too with the remnants of hurricane Bertha expected to cross the Atlantic and make its presence felt in these parts.  Saturday was looking good though; comfortable temperatures, a mixture of sunshine and cloud with a nice westerly wind.  So the plan was adjusted, spend a nice relaxing day at the lake then bivvy up for the night, hopefully getting away before the storm arrived on Sunday.

Shelley and I arrived in mid-morning to find our preferred end of the lake empty of anglers so dropped straight into a comfortable, familiar swim with the breeze in our faces.  On one rod I fished my normal helicopter set up with a snowman rig and PVA bag, this was cast to the marginal slope in front of a bed of Norfolk reeds.  We both cast Chod rigs, Shelley’s into the open water in front of us and mine to the edge of a snaggy area off the adjacent bank.  I then catapulted around half a kilo of boilies, spread across the reedbed slope and the open water.  On a fourth rod we shared a feeder set up baited with corn, this was literally dropped in front of the lilies in the near margin.  Maybe this is an unconventional way to fish corn in the margin, but it’s one way of slowing down the bait stealing Rudd.  Groundbait was ‘Special G’ spiced up with Chilli hemp and a sprinkling of Corn.  The plan was to keep building up a carpet of bait in front of the pads, hoping larger fish would move in eventually.

What a lovely way to spend a sunny afternoon, sat in a comfortable chair by a lovely lake, sipping tea and listening to TMS on the radio.  The occasional Rudd or Roach disturbed us by hooking itself on the feeder rod but the boilies remained untouched.  In the cricket, England’s batsmen played carefully at first then with 70+ scores from Root and Buttler, powered away from India building a lead of over 200.  The only downside being an injury to Broad which meant he probably wouldn’t be able to bowl.  In the end he wasn’t needed.  Anderson and Ali done the damage with the ball then Jordan tidied up giving England a comfortable innings win inside three days.  We’re starting to look just a couple of players short of a good side now, on the other hand India were awful, a truly gutless display.

With the test match over and done with, Shelley popped off to the chippy to pick up supper.  While she was away I recast my two rods, both landed bang on first time, then pulted out another half kilo of boilies.  After cod & chips and another mug of tea we got Shelley’s rods sorted for the night then settled back once more to watch the sunset.  Just after nine o clock my rod cast to the reedbed sounded a steady take, I connected with a fish… but only for a second before the rod straightened and the line fell limp.  I told myself it was a Bream because I didn’t want to think I’d lost a Tench or a Carp.

An hour later with bats swooping and Tawny’s hooting the same rod was away again and this time I connected with a decent weight.  After getting briefly stuck in weed, the fish plodded around in open water before giving up the ghost and rolling into the net.  The weight in the net was a surprise, it was a Bream and a good sized one at that.  Laid out on the unhooking mat I became convinced I was looking at my best ever Bream and the scales agreed.  It may not have been the species I was after but I was pleased none the less.  Over the seasons I’ve caught several Bream from the Marsh in this way, sometimes when they pick up a carefully positioned bait in the middle of the night it can be a pain in the arse but when they’re as big as this they’re very welcome.
 After getting the bait back on the spot I’d hardly sipped the celebration tea when the same rod was away again.  This time I expected another Bream and I was right, what’s more it was another good fish just a few ounces lighter than the first.  With the line marked and clipped getting another rig and PVA bag back out there was easy and before long I was back in my chair finishing my tea.  Shelley was wondering when it would be her turn!  We sat chatting till gone midnight by which time the wind had died but the cloud had built ominously.  A bit of rain was forecast in the early hours before Bertha battered us in the afternoon.  I wound in the rod cast to the snags as the risk of a fish getting in there before I got out of my sleeping back would be too great.  Knowing there had been Bream around, I decided to top up the swim with a few more pouches of boilies then with drooping eyes we retired to the bivvy for a bit of rest.

My alarm clock awoke me.  Except it wasn’t my alarm clock, what was going on?  There it was again, that bloody beeping sound…  I scrambled out of my kip bag, groped for the head torch, stumbled into my shoes and wasn’t aware of anything until I had a bending rod in my hands.  The fish had run away from the reedbed into the open water and it was just a case of pumping it back to the net.  It was another Bream and another good sized one at that, worth taking a quick snap on the unhooking mat before slipping back.  I looked at my watch and couldn’t believe it was 0430 and the sky was growing lighter.  I recast the rod and decided against getting back in the kip bag, instead I’d sit up on my chair and try to keep alert as the next few hours gave me the best chance of a Tench or Carp.  Before settling down again I recast the rod to the snags and landed it bang on first time, I’m getting good at this!
 The early morning period saw the usual cauldron of bubbles from unseen bottom feeders and thousands of feeding Rudd dimpling the surface.  It also saw a couple of light showers which saw me take shelter in the bivvy again.  It was during one of these damp periods around 0830 when I was sat in the bivvy with my eyes closed and breathing heavy that the reedbed rod rattled off once more.  I was up and on it within seconds but not before the culprit had run towards me and got itself stuck in some lilies.  I managed to free it and started to battle with something in open water.  It didn’t feel heavy but managed to charge into another bed of pads in front of me, annoyingly just out of netting range.  I could see a tail which looked like… surely not a Tench?  Steady pressure on strong tackle freed the fish again but it refused to give up and fought every inch of the way into the net.  Yes it was a Tench, a male that looked like it had been through more than its fair share of battles over the years.  It had scars, split fins and had a miserable look to its ‘face’, a real character of a Tench.  I have a feeling it’s a fish I caught a couple of years ago at half a pound lighter than it was today.  Not one of the monsters of the Marsh but any Tench here is a good one and well worth photographing to capture the memory. 
The commotion saw Shelley finally emerge from her sleeping bag and after a revitalising cup of tea she recast her rods.  The sky was still cloudy, the wind had swung to the south but there was no rain and for a while it was pleasant being by the lake, devouring a fried breakfast.  A couple of large fish rolled off the snags and there was still loads of fizzing, it seemed as if the gloomy skies would prolong the morning feeding spell.  I told Shelley things looked good for another fish or two.  Then almost without warning came Bertha, a couple of hours ahead of schedule.  Within minutes the wind had freshened and the rain came sheeting down accompanied by crashing thunder and lightning.  I don’t find holding twelve feet of carbon much fun in these conditions.  Neither of us wanted to spend the day huddled up in a bivvy so with Shelley under shelter I braved the wind and rain to get the gear packed away and the car loaded.  In these conditions staying dry was impossible and all the gear will need drying out when the sun shines again.  The session had to be cut short but it had been fun while it lasted.

Tuesday 5 August 2014

Pure Fishing...

Pure Grumpy

Saturday evening and I had a little spare time so quickly loaded the car and headed off for a couple of hours fishing.  I pulled into the club lake to find it was thick with weed in some places and thick with anglers in others.  I didn’t even get out of the car, just turned around and pointed myself in the direction of the Marsh.  On arrival here things didn’t look much better, at one end two anglers were considerately taking up three swims and at the other, another two were bivvied up and were sprawled out, shirts off sinking cans of beer.  I had a quick look in a couple of the free swims but I must be getting old and grumpy because I just didn’t feel like fishing amongst this company.  So I went back to the club lake, parked up and took a long stroll around trying to find something inspiring.  A few anglers were packing up and heading off leaving just a couple of groups of sullen looking teenagers and a cluster of bivvies.  Forty five minutes later nothing had inspired me so I was back in the car and on the verge of going home but thought “sod it” and decided to try my luck at the Marsh after all.

I ended up dropping my gear into a swim I rarely fish, it looked good with the nice southerly wind blowing in.  I catapulted a few pouches of boilies in front of a reed bed and down the slope into open water.  I cast a snowman rig with a PVA bag of crushed boilies close to the reeds and then a chod rig at the bottom of the slope then sat back to chill out.  As I sat back in my chair I noticed yet another angler setting up across the lake, he was using a dreaded bait boat to position his baits along the lily choked margins into spots it would have otherwise been impossible to present a bait.  I don’t know how he expected to land a fish from these areas but gave him the benefit of the doubt, surely he had a plan?  For some reason I just wasn’t feeling the fishing buzz tonight but tried to gee myself up, the swim looked good with the wind pushing in and the occasional patch of fishy bubbles breaking out.  Then again I always say that don’t I?

Time passed.  At the western side of the lake the sound of a bite alarm caused excitement and panic as the wandering angler scrambled back to his unattended swim to investigate, there was no fish attached to reward him.  Meanwhile at the eastern end one of the beer drinkers was flat on his back, on the ground outside his bivvy where he remained for some time.  Opposite me the guy with the bait boat was in a bit of a fluster as it appeared his vessel was stuck in the weed, either that or he was really taking his time to get his rig bang on ‘the spot’.  In my own swim absolutely nothing was happening and to be honest I was bored as well as grumpy.  I’d had enough and packed up with plenty of daylight to spare.

 Pure Fun

A couple of days later Isaac, Shelley and I ventured off for a couple of hours fishing in the midday sun.  We headed off to a club water, not the usual one but a small, narrow stillwater purposely designed and stocked to see anglers getting a bend in their rods.  This isn’t your usual over stocked, carp puddle type water but one where you never know what will be on the end when the float goes under.  We began by watching Isaac fishing corn close in on a whip.  I fed a little groundbait and a handful of pellets every now and then but bites were few and far between to begin with.  After a while Isaac got a little frustrated and wandered off so I sat down for a while and sure enough managed to hook a fish, a small but very welcome Tench.
 Isaac returned to the hot seat, more determined than ever to bank a fish or two.  Bites began to come more regularly, a couple of fish were hooked and lost but eventually he banked his first fish of the day, a beautiful little Mirror Carp.  A short while later he landed another equally lovely little Carp.  While this was going on I was watching another, larger Carp cruising around on the surface.  After a while I couldn’t resist setting up another rod with a float for casting weight and an 8mm pop up boilie for hook bait.  I flicked it out and carefully wound it back into the path of the cruising fish which slurped it down without hesitation.  After a short battle I pulled a nice little Common over the net and Isaac scooped it out first time. 

 This commotion didn’t disturb the swim for long, once again Isaac’s float dipped and this time the strike connected with a larger fish which tried to get into the weed.  The attempts were in vain, Isaac kept the pressure on and soon I was netting a nice Tench for him.  I think this might be his first ever Tench but Isaac is sure he’s caught one before but we both agreed this must be his biggest.  After that Isaac was satisfied so it was Shelley’s turn on the whip.  She was out of practice with this style of fishing so we had a laugh watching her strike thin air a few times.  Eventually she set the hook and a nice little fish stretched the elastic until I scooped it out with the net.  Proper Crucian Carp are rare these days but Shelley was fortunate enough to catch her first ever today.  With all three of us content with what we caught we returned home for lunch.
Pure bad luck?

My time with the kids ended that evening so when they went to their mums, Shelley and I went down to the Marsh to make the most of the fine summer evening.  We fished a rod each for Carp and Tench; Shelley cast a chod rig into open water near a snaggy tree while my helicopter rig landed a little closer to trouble.  I baited the area with a few pouches of boilies then left the rods to fish for themselves.

We’ve grown accustomed to sitting behind motionless rods here so I decided to put a little groundbait in the margins and fish corn on a waggler over the top.  I stopped fishing like this at the Marsh a couple of seasons ago and had forgotten the reason why.  Not catching fish is obviously frustrating but after a while catching too many can be equally annoying.  I had been hoping to relax while watching the waggler but it was impossible to get a bait to the bottom because every single cast saw the bait intercepted on the drop by a Rudd.  I gave up counting at twenty, they were all beautiful golden fish with vivid red fins and averaged about 4ozs each.  Very nice but not really what I was after.  To add to the frustration my groundbaited area was absolutely fizzing with bubbles.  On a couple of occasions my sweetcorn managed to reach the bottom and I was rewarded with a Roach, the biggest of which was about half a pound.

After an hour or so with the waggler rod I’d had enough so packed it away and we spent the rest of the evening chatting and putting the world to rights.  One of the reasons we like fishing on a summer evening like this is we can just talk without any of the distractions of life.  The sky grew gradually darker and we were lost in conversation when we were suddenly interrupted by a most unusual sound, a bite alarm.  It was Shelley’s rod and with my encouragement she was soon bent into a heavy fish.  Shelley has caught loads of fish over the last few years including Carp to around seven pounds but this was clearly much bigger.  Unfortunately this fish took her by surprise and made straight for the thick beds of lilies and became stuck fast.  The old trick of slackening off and putting the rod back on the alarm never works for me but we tried it anyway.  Would you believe it, after a few minutes the alarm sounded and we were in business again.  Sadly our hope was short lived before the fish was back in the lilies and everything seemed terminally solid.  The slack line trick didn’t work a second time.  I considered stripping off and going in for it but it was dark and the margins were deep. Eventually I tried to pull but the hooklength parted and I suspect the fish had been long gone for some time.  It may have been down to a lack of experience on Shelley’s part or it may just have been down to pure bad luck.  That’s fishing…