Sunday 24 July 2016

Wonderful Glorious

It had been nearly two years since I have pitched a bivvy up beside a lake in the summer and I had got completely out of the habit.  The early summer weather delayed the inevitable return but now we are in a period of hot, dry conditions it was high time.  I spent an evening getting things prepared then the following day I picked up the Purple Princess after work and we made our way to “Ted’s place”.

This water is very much an unknown quantity for me.  I know it had a history for good Tench fishing before it was decimated by Otters and I have seen a couple of decent sized Carp so I decided to hedge my bets and fish in a way that will give me a chance of catching both species.  Location could be a nightmare, the lake is very long and narrow, bankside access is limited and I have absolutely no experience to fall back on.  Once I’ve selected a swim my next problem is the thick weed growth, I have to fish in such a way I can counter this.  So I am looking for a low head of fish that will be hard to find in a large water and fishing in tricky conditions; why do I always find myself enchanted by such places?  Why don’t I fish easy access, well stocked waters with hard, clear bottoms?  Anyone who knows me…  “Ted’s place” is located in a remote and beautiful part of rural Suffolk, it is lightly fished and the tranquillity is equal to anywhere I’ve fished.

After chasing a Hare down the lane we arrived around 2000 and I began walking the bank whilst the Purple Princess set up her camera and started snapping away.  My walk of the banks revealed nothing that marked any swim out more than another but one had a ditch trickling water in as well as plenty of cover and just felt fishy.  I had to take a bit of a detour to get there as a Swan sat in the path and wasn’t moving!  I lugged the gear over then commenced raking the swim which removed a bit of weed and muck that I then managed to transfer onto myself.  The lake bed is covered with mussels and I chucked back loads of live ones dragged in by the rake.

An hour later I had everything ready; the bivvy was up, the swim sorted and two pop up boilies were being fished on chod rigs.  I don’t like this rig but in the weedy conditions it seems the best way of presenting a bait.  I then baited the area up with about three kilos of mixed pellets, a few handfuls of 10mm tutti boilies and a tin of hemp.  I hoped that by putting a bit of bait out I would encourage any patrolling fish into hanging around for a feed.  As I tackled up I’d grown aware of an ominous, growing humming sound and I feared squadrons of winged creatures forming up ready to drink our blood.  Everything I had done this evening was in anticipation of feeding fish moving into the swim in the early hours of the morning, the rods were out but I wasn’t expecting anything fishy to happen and so it proved.  Instead of catching fish we drank tea, chatted, watched the sun set and the moon rise. 

At dusk the mosquitos attacked, endless waves swooped in buzzing annoyingly and looking for blood.  These creatures were a right royal pain in the arse but for some reason they don’t seem to like the taste of me.  I swatted dozens that dared land on me but evidently none managed to pierce my skin.  We had allies when the bats appeared and swooped low on the hunt.  The moon lit the scene, casting shadows and throwing enough light on the water to show the surface was teeming with life.  I’m sure flies of some sort were hatching and hundreds of Rudd were taking advantage of this.  At around midnight we settled down in the bivvy for a nap, apart from the buzz of flies and the squawks of birds it was almost silent.  From the quiet of the bivvy we heard another sound, deep, strange and distant.  I’m told Bitterns have been sighted here, could it be?

The growing light and the sounds of bird song roused me at around 0430.  I recast the two rods and was pleased to see both baits had been clear of weed.  I topped the swim up with another kilo of pellets and a few more boilies then stuck a third rod out fishing corn and maggots on a waggler close in.  The float began dipping and bobbing straight away as the small baits were engulfed by Rudd or the occasional Perch.  The sunrise was obscured by mist and a dark shape materialised in the eerie light, it was some distance away but it was a Bittern no doubt!  This was the first I’ve seen in Suffolk and I saw it (or another?) emerge and fly out of the reeds opposite me a while later. 
At 0525 an alarm startled me as the middle rod took off and I bent into a decent weight.  The fish took line initially and surged along the surface towards a weed bed, a decent Carp no doubt.  I turned the fish and was just beginning to feel in control when the line fell slack…  That’s the thing with chod rigs, I seem to lose the odd fish, more than I do with other carpy rigs.  I should have felt gutted but I didn’t, if anything I was encouraged because my little plan had worked, kind of…  The swim in front of me was alive with Rudd on the surface and periodically large patches of fishy bubbles were erupting all over the place.  I was still in with a chance!

The float fishing was proving frustrating as I just couldn’t keep a bait in the water long enough to feel I was in with a chance of something larger than a Rudd.  I tried to adjust the shot and ended up fishing a bit of fake corn, popped up, lift bite style.  Still I caught Rudd, though fewer.  Eventually I swapped that rod for another, fishing corn on a kind of paternoster rig.  Using a light lead I cast towards patches of bubbles but still only Rudd rattled the tip.

At 0735 the middle rod started beeping again.  The indicator dropped back a bit then lifted oh so slowly and kept heading towards the butt.  It didn’t seem right but I lifted the rod anyway and a decent fish spooked off the line and bow waved away, I should have known better.  Still bubbles broke the surface from time to time, I was certain there were still fish in the swim and I’d get another chance.
As the morning continued the Purple Princess emerged from the bivvy and resumed photographing everything and anything.  There was no lack of subjects either with a dozen Swans sharing the water, in harmony for once and we sighted another Bittern.  The Suffolk countryside looked wonderful bathed in sunshine and there was plenty of life flying in all forms around.  Scores of Dragonflies buzzed in and zipped out before we could raise our cameras, this was frustrating for a while but eventually they began to land and settle on the platform in front of us.  There were at least two different species posing for the cameras, despite years of watching these things I didn’t know what species they were so after a little google I think one is a ‘Scarce Chaser’ and the other maybe a ‘Common Darter’.  Perhaps a wise man from the north can help me out?

By 1000 the bubbling had all but stopped and the only fishy activity came from the thousands of Rudd. I amused myself by flicking out maggots, a few at a time, and watching them zip in and pick them off.  I could have caught a fish a chuck but I didn’t feel the need.  We had a fried breakfast and plenty of tea then slowly tidied away.  It had been a brilliant night; I’d enjoyed it immensely despite not catching what I was after.   “Ted’s place” is perfect, it ticks all the boxes and I’ll be back for a rematch soon.

Tuesday 12 July 2016

In a rhythm

I had to work on Saturday but afterwards the Purple Princess and I hurtled northwards and by dusk were pitching a tent on the Norfolk coast.  I love the long summer evenings and we still had enough light to enjoy a walk on the beach though not enough light to use the cameras.  We’ve camped here many times and expect to see Seals in the surf and sure enough we spotted one before we’d even descended from the dunes.  We walked northwards seeing more and more seals as we did so, after about a mile we climbed up a tide break and we greeted by the sight of a whole group of seals laying on the beach.  Their calls were strange, some high pitched and musical, others deeper almost barks.  We walked slowly forward but didn’t want to get too close and disturb them.  Further along the beach were even more seals around a hundred in all and there were dozens more swimming just off shore.  We made sure we kept a respectful distance and walked along enjoying something we may never see again?  The Seals certainly noticed us and some of the younger ones shifted position, a couple actually shuffled towards us to get a better look.  The sun setting behind the dunes gave the scene an eerie light, we couldn’t manage to capture it on camera but the memory will stay.

After a night in the tent we packed away in the morning and made our way to the staithe.  By midday we were afloat on a bouncy broad, surrounded by yachts.  Through the yachts I opened the throttle; the fresh south westerly threw spray off the bows and temporarily prevented the PP clicking away with a new Nikon.  After a little cruise around I stopped the boat in a sheltered spot and began tackling up.  I fished two open end feeders on helicopter rigs using corn or maggots on 16 hooks on a two foot link.  The groundbait was the remnants of the Expo mix I’d used in the spring, bulked up with more brown crumb and given a good squirt of liquid Brasem.

 With the cuddy half up, the boat nicely organised I tuned in radio 6 and we chilled out with a brew, or at least I tried but bites came to maggots immediately.  I missed a few and hit a few more and caught fish regularly, all Roach up to 4ozs and after a couple of hours I’d not seen a single Bream.  I was already planning to move before the Pink footed Geese starting fighting in front of us.  This plan became solid when one of the combatants launched itself skyward and through my line, dragging my rod and reel out of the boat and across the broad.  Thankfully the bird became untangled and the rod floated. All ended as well as could be expected when I picked the rod up on the way to a second swim.

 A short while later we pulled the boat into a secret, sheltered bay and got everything settled and sorted once more.  I chucked the feeder into a clear area between weedbeds.  The rods were mostly forgotten while I fried brunch and topped up the flasks, when I wound in I found either sucked maggots or a Roach had hung itself.  The day had threatened rain but we only felt a little drizzle on the wind, it stayed bright and breezy making good light for photography and the Purple princess was in her element.  Meanwhile I was in a nice rhythm, recasting regularly and catching fish, mostly small Roach with the occasional Rudd.  It didn’t take long before the rod stayed bent and I boated a Bream of about three pounds, followed quickly by another one a bit smaller.  This pattern continued throughout the afternoon; I caught mostly Roach but from time to time Bream would drift in and I would catch a couple before they wandered off again.  In future I’ll take more bait to hold them in the swim…  All in all it was a good day’s fishing.
 As always in Broadland there were plenty of distractions and photo opportunities that dragged my concentration away from the rod tips.  We saw all manner of wildfowl, in particular another Pink footed Goose which came right up to the boat.  I’m not sure if it was trying to scrounge a feed or if it was trying to make amends for earlier…  We see far fewer birds of prey in the summer but a couple of Marsh Harriers ghosted over.  Dragonflies buzzed by but didn’t stay for a photo.  The bay was ours and only ours, we didn’t see a soul though we heard plenty and no one knew we were there.  Radio 6 came up with some blinding tunes and I was dancing in the boat with Leftfield and Lydon.  We even switched stations just in time for the tie break that led to Andy Murray winning Wimbledon.  I’m no tennis fan but fair play.
It was a lovely afternoon and it was tempting to stay out to watch the sunset but the pub was even more tempting.  We made it in time for a lovely seafood platter washed down with a pint of ‘Ghost ship’.  We somehow ended in in the pub quiz and didn’t disgrace ourselves…  We packed loads into a day and a bit and arrived home late, thoroughly knackered.  We really must do this more often!