Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Adapt and Thrive

With the lure of fat roach foremost in my mind, it was back to the upper Lea this week. I'd decided to visit another stretch. This beat being not much more than a brook. Low and clear, a stealthy approach is required.

 Peering over the nettles, I could clearly see a couple of small barbel and the odd chublet without the aid of polarising glasses. Alas no fat roach.

Hemp and caster were introduced to a few areas and a trot taken here and there. All efforts resulted in one conclusion...minnows. Stacks and stacks of them. I could see my hookbait engulfed by a ball of these ravenous little chaps time after time..I tried to get through them, I really did, perhaps a little too long. It drove me a bit bonkers, so a move a mile or so downstream was in order.
 Back on my usual beat and having seen a lot of cars parked I thought the chances of me getting in to last weeks pitch to be trifle slim, especially when I noticed two old fellows strolling up to the top of the beat.

The lower beat is always busy and I hurried past the hoards to the lesser fished upper beat, all the time hoping that one of the  the old boys hadn't bagged my roach swim.
 Now let's have a think about how their conversation went.
"It's a lot more peaceful up here. We can afford to spread out a bit"
"Good idea, we'll leave a pitch between us, give ourselves a bit of space"
Yep, you can guess which swim they left. I'll have that if you don't mind.
Looking through the polaroids, I could clearly see that the chub shoal was still in residence and a large shoal of roach, all around the three quarter pound to a pound and a half mark, that'll do I thought.
 The river was lower and clearer today, and feeding caster and hemp soon had the fish feeding confidently.
As I sent the balsa float on it's maiden voyage I could clearly see fish racing to my bait and turning at the last moment. This process was to be repeated time and time again. Something was amiss.
 The difference in water clarity and depth were working against me. I tried different shotting patterns and eventually changed to different coloured shot, which resulted in a few perch.
 It was around this time that I saw a roach that certainly concentrated my thoughts. In fact it was so big that I initially thought a bream had shoaled up with the roach. It was so big that it scared me a bit!
 Now, I did of course try a few glory casts with the float, but as the bait trickled towards it there was investigation, then reluctance....I needed a plan.
 The next half an hour was spent just building up an area of feed. Hemp and caster were placed quite close to me on a gravelly area, where I could view the fish. It was perfect, I learn so much at these times.
 Every now and again one of  these skittish fish would spook for seemingly no reason at all sending the shoal scattering. In these times I'd re-bait the spot. Thereafter they'd regain their confidence and once again return to eat, including the big fella.
 Rummaging around in my bag , I figured I'd fish my reliable drilled bullet leger method with a large hook, the biggest I had was size 12. This, when stuffed full of caster seemed a good way of selecting the big fish.
 I waited maybe ten minutes for them to spook themselves, then cast to the spot.
 Sitting there watching the returning shoal, including the big one pick at the river bed whilst the rod tip bumped and tapped was amazing. I resisted the strike a couple of times, waiting for a definite take...It came soon enough, the tip whacked round and I struck..a spirited fight was on. The culprit was this ....

Incredibly, even though the barbel had led me all round the swim, the roach had regrouped and were now back on the feed....I tried again.
 This time my persistence and method payed off with this beauty, not the big one, but handsome nonetheless...

 I now have a method that in low clear conditions on this river might trip up the big roach I have seen here.
 However, the next attempt resulted in this fellow, who scattered the shoal for good..

With the barbel unusually feeding so well in the swim it would've been foolish to not capitalise. Deciding to adapt to the situation a tub of 4mm soft hookable pellets was found and three were delicately threaded on to the hook and cast centre channel. 

..A violent take was almost instant and the old centrepin spun against my thumb as the fish disappeared around the downstream bend.
  With cane rods, one must be patient and you soon get a feel for these situations. The fish always come out of reeds and always eventually come back upstream with patience and delicate coaxing. After a fantastic battle, viewed with much nostalgic enthusiasm by the aged bailiff, the fish was safely in the net. She deserved a well earned rest in said net to recuperate.

With constant feeding the barbel were veritably queueing up for the pellet, and the rod was soon going from this...... this.

And these feisty fellows just kept coming.

I told this one to fetch his Dad..

 Although my set-up was a bit makeshift, I had set out for roach remember. I do think that I have stumbled across a perfect combination for these low/clear river barbel. A small hook having obvious advantages and three pellets camouflaging it completely. I'm pretty sure that a hair-rigged bait would've been ignored in these conditions.
 Also, the bait of choice is more akin to a feed pellet that has been in the water a good while and perhaps deemed safer to eat by the fish.
 Well after nine barbel and with light levels diminishing I re-tackled for trotting. To be honest it was still really difficult going but with heavy feed I managed to tempt just one more roach of more modest proportion.

It seemed wrong not to try for that tenth barbel, so the experiments continued with a size 14 hook with a single pellet. These tactics soon had me in double figures.

It seemed a fitting time to pack up.

 As I strolled back through the mist laden meadow it struck me that the day had began so differently to how it had ended. An angler can learn so much by viewing his quarry and the ability to adapt ones methods and outlook can turn a bad days trotting for roach into a good days legering for barbel.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Trotting for Roach and Chub - Hemp and Caster

Piscatorially speaking, there isn't much better than a chunky river roach. I just couldn't stop thinking about the shoal I'd seen last time out and just had to have a little go for them.
 With this in mind, it was the Earl Grey that I reached for to fill the flask.

After quite an eventful 35 minute journey where I actually saw some mad bloke unleash his dog on a busy main road to run in front of me and test my emergency stop skills, I eventually reached the fishery gate.
 With six cars in the car park I wondered if the swim I wanted  would be taken. Luckily, it isn't a favoured barbel swim and as I walked up the beat I counted the anglers and knew I'd be fine. In fact I had the whole of the upstream section to myself, perfect.
 The swim looked good and as I threw in a pinch of hemp a fish rose to grab it. I'd seen the roach do this last time out with my pellet, promising.

 Having over-cooked and ruined two batches of tares, today's baits of choice would be hemp and caster as the mainstay, and soft hookable pellet and sweetcorn as alternatives to be used on about every tenth trot.
 Whilst feeding the swim I tackled up with a bulk shotted 4BB Drennan balsa float and 1lb 14oz hooklink to size 18 hook.
 The cast was a bit tricky in that the float needed to pass through a gap in the trees to find the pacier far side water. The slacks being the domain of some sizeable carp who'd seen it all before and just wished to watch from the fringes with a knowing look that said, "You've seen me but I've also seen you." 
 Having primed the swim with hemp I stopped to have tea without baiting, my thinking being that by the time I ventured a trot the fish would be searching out single straggling morsels. So, when I finally cast through the tree fronds, saw the float bob on it's way, then promptly vanish, I wasn't surprised. The first fish to come to me was a small chub, not the hoped for roach. 
 The plan of baiting was to be a pinch of hemp and caster alternately,  baited little and often. Then two or three grains of sweetcorn or hooker pellets to be fed occasionally. It's easy to overfeed so one needs to be quite disciplined and a bit robotic, this is the bit that lets me down. I don't really care for disciplined angling, but the thought of fat roach made me try...a bit.
 When one gets the cast, the trot and the retrieve right it really is a joy, add to that the feed and the little tweeks, and a 'feel' for the swim is soon attained.
 A trot with a caster led to a quick bite and I was soon looking through the water at a sizeable roach, they really are most majestic in battle, spirited, yet composed. They fight without the panic of other fish.
 As I netted her I knew that she'd already made my day........

The noblist of fish, on release she just glided away, seemingly unconcerned by it all.
 I consumed a slice of fruit cake as I rested the swim for a while, but upped the feed a bit, just in case her shoal mates were still about. This turned out to be a wrong move, as the events of the next couple of hours proved...A veritable cavalcade of chub ensued.
 The first coming to my first trot on the pellet....

I stuck with the pellet for the second.......

 Knowing that the chub had moved in I tried a grain of corn, this resulted in a cracking fight which had me thinking I'd hooked a barbel, but no....

 This fish is absolute belter for the stretch of river.
 With the chub now coming in quick succession and me releasing them in the the next swim up. I arrived at a stage where I didn't stop for photos on a few captures. It became clear that if I wanted more roach I'd first have to catch all the greedy chub...A fine problem indeed.

Sometime within this bonanza the heavens opened to a hailstorm. I was pelted for about a quarter of an hour. It also had the effect of whipping up a hearty blow. Wet rods and wind, the bane of the long trotter. I was constantly towelling down the rod to dry it out and stop the line sticking to it. It didn't stop the chub coming though.

 And then, once again on the caster and out of the blue came another one of those bites, and I instantly knew I was into another silvery beauty. I sat in awe of her as she casually swam in front of me to the waiting net. Such a lovely fish....

...Scale perfect, real roach perfection.

 I was still struggling with everything being wet, the moisture had seeped into the backplate of my reel and was causing it to make a rather disturbing noise. I'm amazed at how little it takes to stop these marvels of engineering running free. All this became quite immaterial shortly after, because although the sun had now tried to come out, my reel decided that it would much rather be at the bottom of the river than on my Chapman 500 and promptly detached itself and jumped in!

Retrieval wasn't too difficult but it was definitely time to have tea and food in order to take stock and compose myself and my tackle.
 Whilst generally milling around waiting for things to dry in the sun I came across what I believe to be cyclamen, growing loud and proud at the riverside. I don't believe it's a native plant so can only assume it was washed down in a flood from someones garden. It was a nice surprise all the same.

Feeling fully refreshed it was time to get back to the angling and the resuming trot on the caster resulted in a right old character of a chub that knew every bolt hole in the swim. He fought well, but once again the old cane came good with the light tackle and this elder statesman was eventually subdued, bless him.

He'd led me a merry old dance and completely trashed the swim. I had visions of fish scattering in all directions.
 Time was pushing on but I persisted with the caster having tried hemp on the hook to no avail. The next five trots produced some rather fat minnows, so it's hardly surprising that the sixth produced my only perch of the day, which in the absence of chub (and now minnow) in the swim seized the opportunity for an easy feed.

 The caster was fed little and often for the next fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes without a bite meant I'd caught all the chub. I thought that it might be a good time to nick another roach and was proved correct as the float dipped and I saw a silver and red blur beneath the flow. Another cracker was soon mine...

The float here is for scale.

After release I tried unsuccessfully for another ten or so trots for a shoalmate . Thereafter, I was happy to rest upon my laurels considering that I'd had a fine day.
 I'm looking towards winter with much excitement. There are much bigger roach to be found on this river, of that I'm sure, and I will keep on trying for my holy grail.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Lea, Me and a Flask of Tea

On misted dawn, through dew dropped grass I walk. To nestle 'mongst reed and nettle. The upper Lea...low, slow.

Drawn to sit aside her snaking flow, the early morning sounds are all around. The relentless cooing of the wood pigeons and shrill call of the moorhen, all too familiar.
 A cast is ventured and white feathers pass by like little boats on the surface, as if to signal the flyover of the swan, his wing beat reverberating to the angler below.
 I watch attentively for a flicker of the tip, but that attention soon wanes, too much to see....a shoal of massive roach.
 Then 'tap'....the tip grabs back my attention, and round it arcs, I strike.
 Immediately, I'm aware that I am connected to the ever reliable chub, I love them for their ability to make a difficult day worthwhile.

  Time for tea, Twinings of course, not best from the flask, but needs must.
 On the small river, especially when low, a catch can send every other fish in the swim scattering. Patience is needed. I rest the swim and wander, the grassy path downstream.

In the next swim I see....barbel.
 A handful of pellet and a couple of chopped boilies will keep them occupied whilst I get the rod.

Not too long before I'm waiting, watching. So much to see through Polaroids, a dip into their world, I never tire of watching a fish in it's domain.
 Whack, the tip slams round, the wait was short, but sweet. This one fights harder, barbel? Yes barbel! Tearing up and down like a thing possessed, but he will eventually be mine. 

 A quick photo,then a good rest in the landing net before release. Very important, especially in these conditions.

 More tea Stanley!.....Perhaps it's time to take a bit of Lemon cake down stream to Mike.

I thought about it, I really did but I'll have one more cast before cake...
 Just as well really, this lively fellow decides to interrupt the two damselflies who were having a little rest on my rod tip.

OK, cake .... now.
 Feeling somewhat replenished and back to the serious(?) stuff of angling. I become sidetracked by the visiting carp under my rod. Round and round he goes, the same circuit over and over. I give him a bit of pellet and chopped boilie...he likes it. I wonder if I might formulate a little trap and catch him, but then I wouldn't be able to watch I decide against it.

 The sun is now high in the sky, the fishing slowly grinds to a standstill. I'm still happy to idle a few hours, Mike has had enough and departs.
 With bites grinding to a halt my thoughts become fishlike, where would I be. It is actually bloody obvious, in the reeds, in the shade. An upstream cast is needed., and the result is immediate..

 I only drink tea when I'm fishing, it focusses the thought processes when old Gurn's head has had a bit too much sun. I drink and  it soon becomes blatantly obvious that I should move back upstream.
 I like this swim, it feels right.

 When they feel right, they usually are right, so knowing I might only get one opportunity I'm keen not to mess it up. One bait, no freebies...stealthy.
 The bait is in the water for no more than two minutes before the rod wraps round and the Speedia bursts into song.
 A hearty battle on lightish tackle, and a fitting end to the session.

 A shake of the flask concurs, I'm out of tea. Off then, through haystack'd meadow, past ripening sloes. Another delightful small river session comes to an end, but I'll not forget that shoal of roach.