Tuesday 28 June 2016

Early summer interlude

Last year I'd made plans for lots of social fishing with friends and family but at the time life got in the way and these plans had to be put on hold.  This year I had promised to put this right and the long warm days of June should give me plenty of opportunities.  The main priority for these sessions would be simple; have fun first and hopefully catch fish while we were at it.  June arrived but the weather didn't with monsoon weather for most of the month.  This kept the water temperatures down and a bit of lure fishing was on the cards.

First up was my eldest nephew Josh, on a cool a cool evening in mid June. We were afloat in a small boat by 1900 with the clouds breaking up and the sun making a belated appearance; it looked like we had a comfortable evening ahead.  The water was gin clear, revealing thick weed growth to within a foot of the surface.  This simplified our choices of lures considerably and I rowed out feeling very confident, this would be a piece of cake!

We headed downstream, with me just using the oars to correct a nice slow drift.  We started off chucking spinnerbaits but after a few minutes I switched to a Curly tailed thing made by Dave Greenwood.  A couple of casts later I saw a golden flash and the lure was nailed.  I quickly brought a jack Pike to the boat which was quickly unhooked with my fingers.  This was a nice little fish that showed signs of an encounter with a bigger sister sometime in the past.  With a fish under my belt I was happy to take a back seat and the main priority now was to get my nephew a fish.  We continued to drift downstream but I concentrated mostly on the oars, having a cast or two here and there.

I had expected it to be easy but it was anything but.  Everything looked spot on and we kept casting and switching lures, Josh by now using the curly tailed thing.  I warned him that takes would often make him jump out of his skin and the point was made literally seconds later as a nice sized fish launched itself out of the water a couple of yards from the boat.  It missed the lure and didn’t return but gave us a bloody good laugh, the neph said it didn’t matter that he hadn’t hooked it. 

After a stop for a brew it was time to point the boat back upstream, I rowed slowly while Josh cast here and there.  By now the light was fading and he had switched to a spinnerbait, fished high in the water bulging the surface at times.  A pike bow waved, slashed and missed.  He covered the area again but nothing doing.  As we rounded the last bend a Pike hit the spinnerbait with a swirl and slammed the rod over, at last?  No the fish came adrift after a few seconds…

We made it back in fading light, despite the fish not following the plan we’d had a good yarn and a proper good laugh.  The nephew is a casual angler but I have a feeling he gets what it’s all about and understands that catching fish is only part of it.

A few days later I was afloat in company once again.  Isaac has not shown much enthusiasm for a while but earlier in the week he’d said “Dad can we go fishing?” It seems that talking to school friends has rekindled his interest so I wasn’t going to let this opportunity go by.  The day had been dull and drizzly but the cloud was beginning to break up and it looked like the evening would be dry.  We intended to sit and fish with maggots under floats but before that we went for a row.  At least I rowed while Isaac sat holding a rod and trolling his “Angry Bird” lure.  Now these things, made by Rapala are a gimmick but this one in particular runs just beneath the surface and I reckoned it would be perfect for clear water, weedy conditions.

It looked like a repeat of earlier in the week, as we made our way downstream nothing looked at the lure.  Isaac expertly steered it around patches of weed and running shallow with a tight action rattling his rod tip it was surely a matter of time?  A few minutes later a fish boiled at the lure but didn’t hook up.  As it was the only fish we’d moved I decided to circle round and cover the area again.  Isaac continued to steer his lure through the weed and we were silent as we passed through the area again.  I’d just commented that the fish was probably not up for another go when Isaac’s rod whacked over and he was in!  It’s been a couple of years since he has played a fish of any kind of size but he remembered everything I’d nervously yelled at him in the past and done a top job of bringing the fish into the net.

The Pike had engulfed the lure so I leant over to chin it out of the net, as I did so the fish thrashed and managed to impale me on a tooth and rip a chunk out of my thumb.  Losing a bit of blood is normal for Pike fishing but this was one of the worst injuries I’ve had.  It spurted blood and with the fish still in the net I searched for something to wrap it up with, eventually using some receipts from my wallet (there’s never any notes in there).  So with me patched up I did the job properly the second time, removed the lure and held it up with Isaac for a quick photo.  With all the blood around I could forgive Isaac for not wanting to hold this one up himself!

With mission accomplished we set off once again, Isaac working his lure full of beans and a broad grin.  Only a couple of minutes and a few yards further down the Angry bird was hit again and Isaac was attached to an angry Pike which charged around and looked like it might be a bigger fish.  It shrunk at the net and was actually a little smaller than the first but Isaac was buzzing!  Two Pike in quick succession and he was eager for a third. 

We made it to the end of the stretch without any more fish.  Here we tied up to the bank for a while; Isaac fished with the whip while I made tea and sorted out the snacks. He was soon catching Rudd and mostly unhooking them and baiting up himself, I wasn’t sure if he’d remember how.  I nicked the whip and poached a couple of Rudd to save the blank while he was distracted by food.  Having seen a couple of Pike I fancied catching one myself so cast the lure around a bit.  Something swirled at the Angry Bird then a while later swirled at the curly tailed thing and I finally hooked a Jack on a Slider.  It was by the boat quickly and I soon had it chinned and unhooked, Isaac took a quick photo then it was back in the water and away.

Isaac decided he’d caught enough Rudd so off we went again, me rowing and Isaac trolling our way back to base. By now the sun was well and truly out and it was a lovely evening to be out.  Isaac had another Pike swirl at his lure and once again we circled round but this time didn’t find the Pike.  We made it back to base, for once things had gone to plan, almost. 

The following week I tried again, this time with my youngest nephew Ollie.  There had been a bit of rain earlier in the day but the evening cleared up nicely, it would be comfortable fishing at the very least.  Things started well with No 2. nephew hooking up within a few minutes and soon bringing a nicely marked jack to the boat.  Ollie hasn't done much fishing but did a good job despite my coaching.  This was on the 'angry bird' once again.  After that we moved several Pike but just couldn't get one to take.  The neph stuck to the angry bird and got several swirls and follows while I switched lures and only moved a couple.  One of these was a decent fish which followed a homemade spinnerbait right passed the boat then disappeared permanently.

The sky dimmed and I rowed back to base while Ollie trolled the angry bird back.  Another Pike slammed into this but quickly chucked the lure.  When I used to do lots of lure fishing I would find days like these very frustrating but not now.  It's just the way it is sometimes and you have to smile.  It was another memorable evening with great company and a bloody good laugh.

The weekend saw one last boat trip and this time I was the nephew as my uncle took a seat in the boat.  Uncle Brian has been a lifelong angler but just lately hasn't managed to get to the water.  For most of his life he has fished the Suffolk beaches for Cod and Whiting and I used to tag along sometimes when I was a kid.  When I became a coarse angler he would accompany Dad and I catching Carp, Rudd and Tench.  We've often talked about having a day together but the months and years go by, life gets in the way... until now.  Brian has caught most species of coarse fish but never a Pike so we would have to put that right., lure choice was obvious, the Angry bird was clipped on and we set off.

Yet another showery day but the forecast was correct and the rain blew over by mid afternoon.  We drove through big puddles on the way to the water and I had to bail a bit of water out of the boat.  My plan was simple, I would just steer the boat and try to put Unc onto a fish.  We began with a bit of trolling and weed was a problem to begin but as we reached clearer water the lure looked to be running just right.  I warned Brian about what to expect when a Pike hit but even so he was shocked when it happened!  The rod hooped over and the clutch gave line but uncle B is an experienced angler and seemed to take it in his stride.  After a short tug of war I scooped it up and Unc had his Pike.  "I thought it was going to pull me out of the bloody boat!"  The fish was by far the biggest in the boat this year and probably the biggest freshwater fish Uncle B has ever caught.  After removing the angry bird I laid it on the mat for a quick photo, before she was slipped back to glide away, vanishing in the weed.

So uncle B had his Pike!  The pressure was off and we drifted down casting lures and chatting.  We were both absolutely made up with this fish and Unc kept saying "I don't believe it!" I expected to catch more fish but as we worked our way down only one fish attacked my Salmo lure and this came unattached after a few seconds.  I didn't give a shit.  At the end of the stretch we stopped for a brew and caught Rudd on the whip for a while, it was a bite every chuck but the fish were small.  After a while we pointed the boat back and trolled/cast/trolled our way back.  Two hours passed like minutes as we chatted, reminisced and remembered someone who would love to have been with us.  We were almost back to base when the angry bird was hit again and Unc was battling another Pike.  This one pretended to be big by burying in weed but was only half the size of the first.  It didn't matter a bit to uncle though, he loved it and so did I!  

Usually my fishing is very personal, possibly selfish?  It's all about me catching a fish or two that achieves some kind of short term goal.  Most of my future fishing will still be like this, I love the solitude, it's what floats my boat.  These four summer lure sessions have been fantastic fun and I have been happy to take a back seat, playing the role of ghillie to help others catch fish.  I've never been competitive to the extent that I want to catch more than my companion but in the past I've always wanted to at least catch something.  My attitude has been different over these last couple of weeks, as long as we're having a laugh, I couldn't give a shit who catches.  I've got a real buzz out of sharing something I love with my family.  We'll definitely be doing more of this through the summer but the Pike police shouldn't get too alarmed, it's back to not catching Tench again now.  I'd forgotten how much fun lure fishing can be but that's enough for now.

Sunday 19 June 2016

There's more to it...

The long summer evenings of June mean I can often squeeze in a few hours fishing after work.  This takes a bit of pre planning; gear prepped and ready the night before, extra food to eat at work and a flask to fill during the last tea break.  The biggest problem is rush hour traffic and after a bit of thought I came up with a clever short cut to the main road that saved me ten minutes at least.  I was meeting up with Mr N at Ted’s place at 1830 and was ahead of schedule.  Until I run into crawling traffic…  The cause was accidents on both carriageways and the last few miles were a crawl.

I arrived late and Mr N was already fishing so I crept quietly into position beside him.  Ted’s place is a very weedy water and Mr N remembers it being a prolific Tench water but nowadays they are less numerous but generally bigger.  This is another Suffolk water which has seen Tench stocks decline rapidly since Otters have returned in numbers.  We had discussed methods over the phone; Mr N was using a light link leger with a long hooklength so his bait of bread flake would settle on the weed.  He assured me this simple method had seen the downfall of many Tench in the past and I didn’t doubt him.  I had intended to copy these methods but in the end opted to do it completely differently.  I rigged up a make shift chod rig and mounted two pieces of fake corn on a short hooklength.  I swung this out into the weedy water then chucked a few small balls of groundbait on top.

It was lovely to be out on a still summer evening, in a remote and beautiful corner of Suffolk. We always find plenty to talk about and were soon discussing England’s chances in Euro16, the third test at Lords and mourning the passing of the great Muhammad Ali.  We shared the same opinion on the EU debate and moved swiftly on.  Meanwhile, shoals of Rudd dimpled the calm surface, we saw a Cuckoo before we heard it and a Barn Owl slowly drifted along the far bank.  As to the fishing both our methods worked in keeping our hookbaits out of the weed but bites were few and far between.  My fake corn produced just one rattle on the rod tip but Mr N had a couple of twitches and one proper bite on bread.  His strike failed to connect and we couldn’t work out how.  I wondered if my unflavoured fake corn just didn’t have the allure to draw a passing fish or was my make shift chod rig was presenting the bait too high in the water?

We packed up just before it got too dark to see, a blank but plenty learnt with great company, lovely weather and a perfect setting.

Saturday in Suffolk was soaking wet with thunderstorms and monsoon showers.  Everything was still very wet early on Sunday morning when I arrived at the big place after hauling my carcass out of bed around 0500.  I had a quick look around but the level looked higher if anything and my options were very limited, I ended up in the usual swim and set up with little confidence if I’m honest.  I float fished corn over a bit of groundbait a rod length out and cast a tutti boilie/fake corn on a short hooklength with a PVA bag of pellets tight to an overhanging tree.  I catapulted out corn and pellets here then sat back with the awakening brew.

The day was mild, dry and pleasant with a light Southerly blowing in.  The sun rarely poked through the cloud and it felt a bit muggy but it was still a vast improvement on the soaking weather of Saturday.  There were signs of small fish close in and a couple of Bream rolled further out so at least there was something to give me hope.  As usual there was an orchestra of bird song, I wish I could recognise the various calls, the only one I am positive of is the Cuckoo.  On the water I saw Pink footed geese, Grebes, Mallards, Coots, Shelduck and tufties.  In the air and trees there were Martins, Terns, Great and Blue tits, Pigeons and Blackbirds.  The trees were heavy with water from all the rain and from time to time there seemed to be rain fall as patches of trees suddenly shed loads of water, then another… then another.  I couldn’t work it out but eventually the cause shook the branches above me…

I had plenty of time to notice all this because on the fishing front absolutely nothing happened and it was no wrench to tidy my gear up around midday.  So far the Tench in the big place have been more than elusive but to be fair access has been extremely limited and I just haven’t had the time to make a proper effort.  There seems to be a theme to my spring fishing.  Every year I look forward to fishing in improving weather and make grand plans to catch monster Tench but I just never find time to do half of it and inevitably fall on my arse.  It has been alleged that summer is here and this inevitably means sporadic fishing and mostly short sessions.  I’ll probably be better off spending my time elsewhere but we’ll see.