Monday, 21 January 2013

Sharing is Caring.

With the lakes now frozen the small window for large roach has been firmly closed. Any angling today would be on running water.
I cast my mind back to the early days of summer and the surprise 6lb+ chub I'd caught from a small local river.
 A quiet spot on this river is a two mile walk from my home, but walking was the best option today. It's not known to have a large population of chub, indeed mine is the only sizeable one I've heard of, so rarely is it fished.

A lay-in is usually the order of the day on a winter fishing trip, this was followed by a hearty breakfast, I grabbed the gear, then off I went.
 How different the water meadow looked from the spring time yellows and greens. Only dog walkers and the odd snow-day child, no cattle now.

 Onwards, past the sleeping holiday narrowboats, lined up for the winter, cold and redundant.

 Enduring the wise cracks of the boat owners along the towpath. 'Hope you've remembered your auger' 'Keen or bloody mad?' ...I strolled onwards over the church land where the gypsies winter their horses.

 The church bell tolled eleven as I reached the first swim. My aim was to set up base here for a while, then have a roam around in the afternoon.

The snow was deep here but having thrown in a couple of small balls of mashed bread, I dug-in and had a cuppa before setting up, I then went upstream and baited another three spots for later. I had been lightly baiting all four spots daily for the last week.
 Back at base I made my first cast and sat back.
 I was soon greeted by that most intelligent and bold of birds the robin. They always seem to find an angler and know that there's a chance of food.  I did bring maggots which was not only lucky for Mr. Robin but also for me as I'd foolishly forgotten a couple of slices of bread for hookbaits even though I remembered the mash.
 I was happy to share some grubs with the little fellow. Lady Sarah has a saying, "Sharing is caring" and she loves robins.

They never look like they're starving though, do they. 

 I'd been sitting for about an hour and was pondering a move when another angler appeared, this hadn't happened here before. I knew him from the shop and a local syndicate. He explained that he'd been given the day off of work and wasn't going to waste an angling opportunity. I said we could be 'bloody mad' together. On hearing that I'd forgotten my bread he was more than happy to share his few slices of white with me. I returned the favour by sharing a few maggots. The chap's plan was to walk up the beat and fish his way back down. I had a choice to make. I could tell him that I'd baited some swims and I know he would've left them. I chose the other option, I knew that he didn't normally fish for chub so I told him where I'd baited and told him he was welcome to have a dabble in them. I enthused about an eddy upstream and he said he'd have a go.
 Within a quarter of an hour he was back at my swim and, out of breathe, he said he had the biggest chub he'd ever seen in the net and did I have some scales and a camera, he'd caught it, as so often is the case, with his first cast . I said I'd follow him back to his swim.
 As he lifted the fish in the net I said, "That's over five mate". He was shaking with the buzz of a pb fish. He'd only caught chublets previously.
 My trusty old Salters gave 5lb 14oz and I was genuinely happy for him.

 Having broken his net with the fish he came back downstream to be close to me. As we were now sharing a net I was unable to go wandering. I didn't care, we had a chat, shared my tea and were treated to the sight of a pair of foxes as they hunted in the nearby wood.
 Neither of us had a take for the rest of the day, but it was nice to be out in the snow. 
 Two things worth a mention which made my day so much more comfortable are the Zippo handwarmers I bought this week....

...and my Stanley flask, really up to the job and worth the money. Kept us in hot tea throughout the day even though it sat in the snow for most of the time.

I left for home well before dark, the lure of a forgotten Ginger cake finally getting the better of me.

I did have a little thought that the chub was familiar though. Yes, unbelievably, on checking my photos he turns out to be the very fish I caught in summer at 6lb 2oz.

 I have to be honest, it disappointed me a bit as I now suspect he could be the only sizeable chub in the entire stretch, whereas if it was a different fish it opens up a whole stack of potential. 
 It's nice to see he's still about though and even though the raging torrents of the past weeks have meant he's lost a few ounces, he's still a fine looking fellow.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Chasing a Hunch.

"I could never tell where inspiration begins and impulse
leaves off. I suppose the answer is in the outcome. If
your hunch proves a good one, you were inspired; if
it proves bad, you are guilty of yielding to 
thoughtless impulse." 

I have a hunch. Ever since I joined the syndicate I've had a niggling suspicion that the lake may hold some big roach. It has all the ingredients. It's well established, it has predators (I believe that the predation thins out the stock and the remainder grow bigger), course fish other than carp and catfish are generally neglected, and the lake is linked to a river.
 It was already snowing when I arrived. What a difference in the old lake now all the leaves are gone, along with the warmth of summer.

I like to fish for big roach in these conditions. Experience has told me that on many lakes, the bigger fish will be the only ones feeding. The window of opportunity is small and the odds are stacked against you, especially if you don't actually know what you're fishing for. These tactics have yielded some cracking fish for me. However, bites are few and far between. Sometimes you are waiting for just one bite a day.
 Tactics today were standard running maggot feeder to size 16 Drennan red maggot hook, bait was double red maggot. I've seen and used the helicopter-type roach rigs that seem the vogue at present, but I used them with caution. I am still not sure they are 100% safe. Can a roach really pull a float stop off of a line every time?, I don't know but I'd hate to think I'd left a specimen tethered, so running rigs today for me.

The sky looked full of the white stuff and much of it was coming my way.
 For the first hour I searched around with the feeder, sometimes it is better to try to find a fish or two rather than hope they'll visit one spot. If I get bites doing this, it's only then that I clip up and concentrate on a spot.
 No bites were forthcoming, so after this first hour I concentrated on a deeper area, casting every ten minutes or so.

With the snow settling all around me and indeed upon me. I reached for the flask.
 Sitting drinking my tea and eating a nice Morrison's Fruit Cake, I was exposed to the Kingfishers yells of frustration as he went from branch to branch trying to find a fish  "I know exactly how you feel mate." I thought. He'd dived as many times as I'd reached for the now snow covered landing
 I thought back to summer when my friend Simon Tofield (he of "Simon's Cat" fame) had accompanied me on a trip. He'd marvelled at the constant 'Fisher activity on this lake and swore that he'd lured them with his bright blue shirt.

The visit inspired him to produce this image....
The hours passed, I was beginning to feel the cold. I'd seen no sign of a fish at all. I did have a little recce around but even the resident pair of mink gave up and went up the inlet to the river. Where were the fish?

The tip stayed static and having run out of tea and with darkness creeping in I decided to call it a day.
 What did I learn then? Well not too much about this lake's roach population, if it exists. I did learn that the weed had all died back nicely so presentation is good. I've just got to find the fish. I'm not going to give up on this hunch and will be back when the weather is constant, maybe at the other end of the lake, maybe with some bread. I'll try all the permutations, until I either catch or believe they're just not there.

IP rating ****

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

A Fresh Approach

I can admit it, I didn't try too hard with my fishing last year. That's not me being smug and I'm not saying it's a bad thing. Sometimes we just like to go to a lake and really just relax, not chase.
 The one thing that disappoints me though is that I didn't motivate myself to do enough of it. Hopefully, things will change for the better this year as I've vowed to try to keep the enthusiam up and set a few targets. There's a new lake on the horizon where I intend to target some fat tench, there's also a real enthusiam to get amongst the carp on the new syndicate lake. All this and probably some opportunist river and canal angling mixed amongst it...Then there's my secret quest, which will become apparent as the year progresses.
 With my new found enthusiam I'd intended to go to the syndicate lake to see if it held some large roach, it's a hunch, nobody fishes for them, I need to know. The problem, however, is the weather conditions, far too warm for specimen roaching, I just know that the bream will beat them to bait until it gets colder. The weather and river levels looked spot on for a bit of small river perching though.
 With the river being just a few minutes walk from 'Gurney Towers', I travelled light, just a bag, rod and the smallest net I thought I could get away with. The sun had shone all morning and I found myself in the weird situation of waiting for the weather to get worse before going fishing.
 With sodden grass and residual mud left over from the recent floods the banks were decidedly dodgy, but I managed to find my way to a quite unassuming area that has produced a few perch for me in previous years. It's my theory that the area, though devoid of obvious features, has a higher concentration of signal crayfish than other areas, thus encouraging their predators.

Tactics were simple, some might say crude. Allcocks Nimrod, Mitchell 300, 4lb line, 2.5lb hooklink, the smallest drilled bullet I could get to hold bottom, stopped by a Korum link bead. The size 8 Gamakatzu hook held one lobworm (cut in half, both halves hooked at the gooey end and tipped with a single red maggot).
 This area is surrounded by industry and there was a public footpath behind me. It's amazing how soon you get into the zone and the sounds of machinery, vehicles and barking dogs drift away.
 I fed maggot and flicked a bait to the near bank a little way downstream. Having tightened up and placed the rod in it's rest I was now in need of a cuppa, just the thermos today, travelling light remember.
 The rod soon went into a strange sinewy dance, so savage were the taps from the crayfish that had I not known better I'd have struck.Time has taught me the difference, so the bait stayed out. It was just as well, after around twenty minutes I received a proper bite and struck to resistance and a fiesty 'footballer' was soon netted.

 He was a beautiful little fellow, and very welcome.
 Having been dragged from my trance-like state, I once again became aware of my surroundings. I've said it before but it does amaze me how many dog owners shout at their dogs for things that could be avoided if the owner was a little more sensible. Having never owned a pet dog (I have owned racing greyhounds) it seems to me to be part of the reason some people keep them...I think I might have a Jack Russel one day, I might call him Alan. I'm sure if I shouted at a Jack Russel it'd perhaps shout back.
 With my mind back on the fishing I wondered if I might next time bring the trotting rod, this stretch looks ideal for it.

 After another cuppa, a strange twitchy bite, not a crayfish, I thought...I struck into nothing and recast. Soon after the same sort of bite came and I struck once again to nothing.
 I replaced the lobworm for two dendrobaenas and recast. On the next strike I landed the culprit a lovely little roach, the first I'd ever caught here.

That's the joy of this, or I suppose any river really, you just don't know what you might get.
 I didn't really intend it to be a roach day so reverted to the double half lob approach. This turned out to be a wise move as some time later I was into another stripey, I must admit that at first I thought it might be a chub, such was it's first run. It turned out to be the biggest fish of the day. Though not as big as this photo might suggest it was big enough to put a smile on old Gurn's face.

Though I always take a roll-mat on the river I feel that in these situations of sodden grassy ground there's little need for the unhooking mat, the ground being more like their domain and easily soft enough not to cause damage, it's a common sense thing for me. If you disagree I'd be interested to hear your opinions.
 This fish was rapidly followed by another lovely looking perch.....

 About an hour later a customer of mine strolled towards me from the footpath just as I was into a fish. He wondered how I'd put up with the noise. If I'm honest I didn't hear it, my concentration was elsewhere. I suffer from tinitus and it's amazing how the brain has a way of putting it to the back of your conciousness. Someone was using a loud angle-grinder nearby, I was now aware of it, but couldn't say how long the din had been going on for.
 He kindly photographed my last fish of the session, the day cut short so that I had enough time to go to Kenilworth Road to watch the mighty Hatters win 6-1. Now that's a good day, all round.

Not a bad few hours. Last year I'd have probably stayed at home. Happy New Year all.