Sunday, 3 September 2017

Three years already!

My PB so far - See HERE
It does not seem possible that I have been fishing, and writing this blog, for three years already. In that time I have learned a lot, amassed an enormous amount of tackle and caught hundreds of fish. It did not occur to me that I would ever get this involved. I started it initially as a way for my brother and me to get together on occasions other than family gatherings. Well, it has not worked out that way. Tim has just not found the time to come and has not got the interest I have. This surprised me as he was the one that fished when we were kids. I only suggested fishing as an idea because I thought he would be keen. I saw myself sitting on a bank chatting while Tim did all the hard work. As anyone who has been reading this will know, that is far from how it turned out.

I love my fishing, three years on, and I am still finding new things to explore and have a go at. I have recently had a go at river fishing, and I can see the appeal. It can be lovely and peaceful, and there are many places where I am really looking forward to trying out new techniques. With the autumn and winter just around the corner, I will be having a go at some lure fishing this year in some of the rivers I have been investigating.

I have also got a lot of pleasure from writing this blog. I started it as a sort of personal diary, and I was hoping that Tim would join in and author a few post of his own - I have all but given up on that score. I am amazed that here we are, three years on and I have received getting on for 100,000 page views. Okay, not a lot in internet terms but I don't think that is bad for an independent personal fishing site that does not sell anything or allow any advertising. It is not here with any commercial interest just as a pure pleasure website. It seems that others appreciate some of my posts.

The bait posts are always popular as are the repair topics but for me, it is simply a record of what I have been doing. Three years on and I am still writing it and planning my next adventure. I love it!

The top three post over the past three years have been:
  1. Two-dog groundbait... 
  2. Oh, bother! 
  3. Oakley Road
Ralph.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

At last, a day at the lake...

For all sorts of reasons, I have not been to the lake for the past couple of months. An hour or so snatched here and there on our local river, and one trip to The Stour in Canterbury has been my lot.

The familiar sight of the gate closed, but I was first in the queue - got something right then...
Today, I was off to Beaver Fishery. It's Bank Holiday weekend, and I have a feeling the place might be packed. I needed to get there early, or I might not get a decent swim on whatever water I choose. Commercials can get busy on a typical Saturday, and with it being a bank holiday and having one of the lakes closed it could be a bit of a squeeze. The only rule, when it is like this, is not to move once the swim has been decided upon. I tried to break this rule once and found I could not find anywhere else worth fishing and ended up going home early.


A different swim on Maze lake shows lots of open water and no trees!
The Major's Lake, the largest lake at Beaver, is closed at the moment for maintenance, so I needed to decide between trying to catch some of the bream in Maze, perch and roach in Eden Pond or just have a good play with the F1s in Jeff's Lake. In the end, I opted to fish Maze Lake. At the beginning of the year, extensive work was carried out on the two specimen lakes. A lot of fish, mainly bream, were relocated to other lakes around the fishery. Maze Lake was the recipient of a good many bream, not that I noticed any last time I fished it back in June. That day I was fishing the lake from a peg I have often fished before. Andy (one of the fishery's bailiffs) had suggested that I might be better off looking for the bream in the open water, hence the decision to pick a different swim today.

I had decided to use a couple of rods. A 5m tele-pole fishing for small silvers and a feeder rod at a distance. I started with the feeder rod that would be loaded with my Two Dog groundbait and a big lump of punched bacon grill, hair rigged to a No.14 hook. If I were to do this over on Jeff's Lake, I would be landing F1s with every chuck. Here, the bait can sit there for a while before anything happens. I filled a 30g feeder and let fly 30-40 yards with no hook length. Clipped up and after a couple of minutes I retrieved that one and cast another. I did this half a dozen times to get a bed of groundbait on the spot. I added a hook length baited with a lump of punched Bacon Grill and cast to the spot - Plop! I planned to let that rod sit there, with the drag slackened off, just waiting for a bite. In the meantime, it was out with the tele-poles.

I really enjoy playing with these things. All they are, are 5m cheap telescopic 'poles' that have had elastic fitted through the top two sections, see HERE. Just as I was rigging, one of these poles, the feeder rod bent around, and I had hooked an F1 within a few of minutes of casting out the first baited feeder. This was starting to look promising.

First F1 of the day after only a few minutes of fishing
I refilled the feeder, replaced the hook bait and sent another feeder load to the spot - Plop! It has taken a while, but I seem to be getting on or there about the same place with each cast. Considering I am using a cheap rod the accuracy is fairly good. I do wonder if my casting would benefit from using a better rod. For now, I am not complaining, these rods have served me well, and I have not spent a King's ransom on buying them.

Lots of skimmers around
Plumbing the depth at 5m confirmed the lake is only about three feet deep pretty much in an arc from the swim. I took my time to get the hook at dead depth to start with. I baited the size 18 hook with a single white maggot and continuously fed three or four maggots over the float by hand. At this distance, it is relatively easy to be accurate. This was starting to produce results in the form of small roach, and skimmers that were steadily getting bigger.

Meatster from Aldi - very nice!
Meanwhile, back on the feeder rod, I was catching fish every fifteen to twenty minutes. To my surprise, I had found the bream, and I was catching nice 1-2lb fish interspersed with the odd F1. I had changed hook bait to try a punched salami stick similar to Peperami. This one is called 'Meatster' and is available from Aldi. They do an Original (green packet) and a 'Hot' (red packet). It is less than half the price of the brand leader at £1.09 for a pack of five. I just punched an 8mm 'plug' out of the stick and shoved a meat stop into it. I did not bother to push it all the way through, and it held like, well, I will let you make up your own analogy here! It is very oily and had the texture of rubber, but the fish love it, as do I. It lasts so well, in fact, it is hard to get through more than a few pieces. The rest of the stick does not get wasted. I can't show you the whole of the Hot pack as two sticks got used today; half a dozen punched pieces for the fish, and I had to check it was not off, so I ate the rest. I can now make a good impersonation of Clifford, the Listerine Dragon - If you don't know who that is, Google him!

The feeder line was looking after itself, and I was fishing with my tele-pole happily enjoying the roach when all of a sudden the elastic made its debut straight into the water. Just as I am thinking to myself "My! That's not a skimmer or roach..." the elastic started back into the pole, and a fair sized bream broke the surface thrashing around making a right show of itself. Most bream seem to play dead when caught, not this one, it was seriously annoyed. Just as I am saying my goodbyes to my end tackle and float it reverted to type and played dead. In it came, laying on its side probably feeling a bit foolish after being caught on such cheap gear.

Gotcha! Sitting in the net after taking a maggot on the tele-pole - great fun. The feeder rod is still lying across my leg
At this point, I decide to go after the perch that I know patrol this part of the lake. I baited the hook with a small section of prawn. I buy (well, I get the missus to buy) a 300g pack of Tesco Everyday prawns (£3.00) and split them into three lots of 100g. That amount is plenty for me when I am only dabbling between other catches. I fed a few loose prawns, into the area I planned to fish and hooked a small section of prawn onto the hook. Sure enough, the little stripies were there in abundance, and I managed to catch a good few, one after the other.

They don't have to be big to be fun. This little fellow put up a brave fight and is still cross now!
All of a sudden, it all slowed up and went quiet. The shoal of perch obviously had better things to do than to eat my prawns. The water was swirling a bit, so I knew something was down there. All of a sudden the elastic was out again and the poor little tele-pole was bent double. This time I was sure I was going to lose the lot. You know that feeling when blowing up a balloon and you are waiting for it to burst, well, that was how I was feeling as the elastic was getting thinner and thinner.

Not bad for a cheap tele-pole and light elastic!
I kept the tip down and led the fish first to the left and then to the right in an attempt to tire it out. After what seemed like an eternity, the pressure started to ease, and I manage to net the fish. It was a good sized bream, in fact, it was the biggest fish of the day. I had no idea bream would eat prawns.

What a great day. I found a good swim, had great fun just catching fish all day. The weather was just right, and even the road closure on the A22 did not cause any great dramas. All in all, it was a perfect day.

Ralph.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Not a fish in sight...

The water was at its normal height today but why was it looking so murky?
Fishing adventures have been very thin on the ground for the past few weeks. What with work, family commitments and trying to get organised to get out of this house, fishing has been very low priority. Today we managed to squeeze in a couple of hours on our local river.

Our only local river, that has any fish in it seemed to be totally devoid of fish today. Not only did we blank, we did not see any fish at all! It was good and early when we arrived at our usual favoured spot. The river was looking very coloured, so much so it was hard to see into the water at all. I was puzzled by this. We fished for about an hour with no success whatsoever. Usually, we have something within the first few casts, but today, nothing.

We like our little spot because we are off the tarmac path, away from the passing 'traffic' of walkers and cyclists, but more importantly away from any of the 'antis' that often seem to patrol these sort of spaces. Having had not a sniff of a fish, we decided to up-sticks and move a good half a mile upstream to a place where we had seen a good shoal of perch, a few chublets, and several other silvers, on several occasions, as recently as last Monday.

The river is in a concrete lining here as the park runs through the old gasworks site and was redeveloped as part of the planning permission concession given when one of the big supermarket chains wanted to build a superstore on the site. There is a lot of vegetation hanging over the wall where the river meanders through its totally man-made environment. Fish seem to hide in the shadows and commute from one area of overhang to the next. On Monday there was a huge (by River Pool standards) shoal of perch patrolling the beat between the overhangs. Today nothing was coaxing them out to play. We tried feeding our tried and tested rolled up bread, meat and even casters but not a sign of a fish. Here we were fishing in full view of other people. Apart from the odd "Morning", we were not bothered. By fishing on the opposite bank to the main path it was only really dog walkers to fend off.

The water here was still a bit murky but nothing like as coloured as it was down-stream earlier. Then the cause of this stirred up murk became obvious. Wet dog. The river has no real depth anywhere and there are plenty of places where dogs can access the river and have a good splash around, stirring up the silt and sending it down our way. I assume all this canine activity does nothing for fish confidence and they have all gone off to hide.

Today has taught us a new lesson. As dog-walkers seem to prefer the early mornings, this is possibly a time to avoid. We have not been here this early to fish before and our planning did not consider dogs. Of the several visits, we have made here over the past few weeks, the most successful one was the first, and that was late morning on a weekday. Maybe that is the time to go in future.

Ralph.       

Monday, 7 August 2017

Just a little fishing trip...

We have had some of the best fishing weather of the year over the past month or so and I have been unable to get out and fish hardly at all. Today has been no different, by the time I had finished work it was half past four in the afternoon but I was determined to get at least an hour's fishing in.

By the time we had got the gear together, grabbed some bait and made our way to the river ready to fish, it was half past five. The water looked as if it had a film on top but I think this was some kind of dust 'from' the plants as it didn't shimmer like an oil and there were plenty of holes in it. The first thing to bite was the local bug population, biting us! The place was swarming with all sorts of fauna, all of which was intent on acquiring the taste of human. For me, it is really just a nuisance, but for Sue, it is more of a problem as she reacted badly to bites. Last time we were here she had an awful reaction to a couple of bites. Even though she had used some anti-bug spray and changed her attire to try and keep the little fellows out, they still managed to get her. Let's hope they don't cause her as much discomfort as last time.

We manage to catch a small roach, almost straight-away, on bread punch. I decided to try a single red maggot, thinking I might find another perch, and found a stickleback, just like last time. A few more casts and the tip twitched again, a light strike and I had another stickleback, this time a male with its bright red colouration on the front part of the underside, which I understand to be its spawning colours. I will have to read up a bit more about these fascinating little fish that are full of fight.

A male stickleback in its spawning colouration
After an hour or so, the insect population was getting the better of us, and we decided to call it a day. I had a good time, we caught some fish, and we were only out for less than a couple of hours after work, including the walk to the river and back. We will give it another go, but I think we will try the early morning next time. Always assuming Sue can find some way of keeping the bugs off...

Ralph

Friday, 21 July 2017

Blackberries and fish

The nice thing about fishing a local river is that it is not time-limited. By that I mean I don't feel that I have to spend many hours there to justify the expense. Today, was a last minute decision to grab a couple of hours on the local river. On reflection it was probably not the best time to go as it was mid afternoon.

We had been worried that there might not be any fish in the river after getting a call from a fellow angler last Sunday, who lives at the other end of the river (it is less than 3 miles long), saying he had seen a milky cloud making its way downstream. He was concerned that it might have been something nasty. Sue and I immediately set off to have a look at our end. The river was full of sediment and we could not see through it. I guess the heavy rain had caused the river to colour up. Although we could not see any fish, there was no sign of dead fish so we assumed whatever it was had not been detrimental.

We set up in our secluded spot by the willow with the fallen limb. Sue was feeding the swim with the usual peppercorn sized pellets of bread rolled in her fingers to make them sink. A few fish appeared and started feeding. Last week's fear of another chemical spill was now put to rest. Meanwhile I was fiddling about tying the rig to the flick-tip of my whip. This short 3m flick-tip whip is the prefect weapon for this small river, fishing from a very tight spot. Last time we were here I was just freelining and using a buoyant bead on the line just to give a small amount of indication - it seemed to work. This time I decided to use a small, short pole float with half the cocking weight directly under the float and the rest strung out shirt-button style down to a loop where the hooklength was attached.

I am now thinking the size 16 hook was probably too big but it was too late now, I had only bought a couple of identical rigs with me. Anyway, I cast in a couple of times with what I thought to me to be a good guess at the depth, only to watch my bait glide down the river at what looked to be mid depth. Time to do it properly and plumb the depth. Well, what a surprise, it turned out to be getting on for 2½ ft deep! It only looks to be about a foot deep. Again, another new experience for me. I have only fished in here once before and the only other time I have fished in gin-clear water was at Canterbury the other week. both times I had been mainly freelining, so no need to plumb. It looks a lot shallower than it actually is.

Slippery little dace
I managed to catch a couple of small dace, not the largest haul of the year. Then the fishing just dried up. I am not sure if we over fed the swim or frightened the fish off by returning the fish back in the swim. It may well have been just the time of the day. Whatever it was, we did not see another fish, even after we had packed up and went blackberry picking on the way home... Not bad for a couple of hours by a river in the depths of South East London!

I am very new to this river fishing lark, but it is good fun. Sue calls it "real fishing" and I think she might be right.

Ralph.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Urban fishing 2

Sue and John look happy - a decent sized chub from the weir pool in Canterbury!
Okay, here's the plan, get up early and drive to Canterbury, fish the river for a couple or three hours and then go and visit my elderly Mum. That all sounds fine, so I call my Mum, who is 90 years of age, and tell her my plans. "Oh... all right then..." comes the rather stilted reply". With that, I ask if there is something wrong, to which she replies to my surprise "Can I come too, I would really like to see the fish?"  "Er.. Yes of course you can" I reply, trying not to sound gob-smacked!

This was fine but we had intended to be there early, and I did not expect my Mum would be up for a 05:00 start. I made arrangements that we would collect her at 08:00, go and fish for a couple of hours and then have a spot of lunch. 06:30 this morning the phone rang. My Mum was not feeling so good, nothing serious but she had decided not to come after all. Between all this mucking about my mate John, who lives locally to my Mum, had told me the river was unfishable where we had planned to fish due to excessive weed growth. He also said he would be fishing the weir pool at The Miller's Arms from mid morning. Time was now getting on, we decided to go and meet John at the weir pool.

We made sure my Mum was not in desperate need of us and arranged to meet John at the weir pool. I have no idea where the time went but it was pushing mid day by the time we eventually got to Canterbury. By this time Sue had made the sensible suggestion of not fishing now, but to go and meet John for a chat and come back later after we had visited my Mum.

It is a long way down - full extent of a 3m landing net handle
I knew it was a long drop to the water, so landing net pole in hand so I could check that it is long enough, we made our way to the weir pool. Sure enough, John was there fishing from his favoured spot. He was after chub, free-lining a huge lump of meat on a size 2 hook. He had already had one earlier in the session and was not really expecting to catch another. As we stood there discussing tactics the line tightened on his finger and he was into another. A short fight led to me landing it for him. This time it was a good size, getting on for 4lb. We took photographs and released it back into the pool.

John with his 4lb (ish!) chub
After spending just about an hour with John, we set of to visit my Mum, complete with pack lunch for three. When got there she was feeling better but did not want to go out. I did the 'obligatory' jobs she had lined up for me and spent a pleasurable few hours with her before heading back to Canterbury, via the local fish and chip shop.

Arriving back at the car park just before 19:00, I was amazed to see parking was not free until 21:00, obviously cashing in on the early evening theatre and pub/restaurant business. Three quid for two hours parking was parted with and we went back to the weir pool. Nobody was fishing it so we had our pick of swims. I opted to fish in the same place that John had fished earlier.

My struggle with what tackle to take continues. To be fair, I had not fished this venue before and other than being told to take strong gear to have a go for the larger chub, I was just guessing. The largest hook I could muster was a size 10 and my rod choice was wrong too. I took a three-piece, 12ft, cheap match rod that was as stiff as a broomstick and I could not feel a thing on the line. I took this rod because it fits in the boot area of the car, meaning I could leave the car unattended with the fishing gear being on show. I know, wrong reason for rod choice but I thought I was being smart. I have not used this rod since the very early days of my fishing and now compared to my other rods this thing really is not up to much at all.  I also did not have any meat with me, but a detour to Sainsbury's, on the way to my Mum's, cured that.

Rod issues aside I spent the first hour trying to get the meat in the same place as John had fished earlier. First with a smaller piece of meat, more appropriate to a size 10 hook. This did not have the weight to make the distance with an underarm lob. A full cast was out of the question as the spot was protected from such attack by the tree Gods. I then tried a good sized piece of meat pulling the inadequately sized hook through the piece of meat with a baiting needle. This did the job and the meat stayed on - even after a brush with the overhanging trees, but still without the sign of a fish.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the pool, another chap had arrived and was float fishing for perch, getting a fish on most chucks. Every time he got a fish he would let us know by calling or gesturing across the pool. It don't half make your jaws ache smiling with clenched teeth. By now it was obvious that the chub were not going to bite so I re-rigged with a float and smaller hook. The idea was to have a go at the silvers that were in abundance. They may have been there in numbers but they were not that keen. I did manage to catch my first dace, nothing huge but a first for me. Sue has been feeding the swims, watching the fish come in and trying to identify them, although she has no passion to fish she is happy to just watch. Today she had a first; she actually picked up and fed some maggots!

My first dace
Having never fished in a river or any flowing water before, I have now done it twice in two days and I love it. I can see what so many people like about river fishing over the commercials. It is a totally different experience but for me I think I can live with both. One thing the past couple of days has taught me is that I need some more tackle. What is fine for pulling silvers and small carp out of commercials is not so useful in the small rivers. Rods and centre-pin reels apart, I could do with a few different floats and a small net (for landing the chublets of yesterday) would make far less commotion. I can't wait for our next session, because it is free and local, at last I have found somewhere I can fish for just a few hours on a more regular basis.


Ralph.
                   

Friday, 7 July 2017

Urban fishing

Our chosen swim - and yes this is in the middle of a very built-up area
You can't get much more urban than South East London. Even here there are several small rivers with fish in them. Back in 2009 one of these rivers was stocked with fish as part of a restocking plan by the Environment Agency. Sadly, not long after, an illegal dumping of a poisonous substance wiped out all the fish, and probably a lot more life, in the river.

The river in question is very small. In fact it is so small I am not sure it should be called a 'river' at all. It is also not very long at just under 3 miles it has to be down there with the shortest of rivers. The River Pool is a section of a lot of small rivers that join up on their way to discharge into the River Thames at Deptford Creek as the River Ravensbourne. For the past few years I have been looking at these rivers with the idea of fishing them and today I did just that.

Sue was in charge of feeding the swim - so long as it was bread
I am still not sure that I should be fishing in these rivers but the only criteria I can go by is there is nothing saying I can't. Last week, we took a walk along the river to see if there were any likely swims where we could fish without being too conspicuous.We found a perfect spot were we could fish in fairly deep (relative term) water in the shade of a tree. This morning we fished it.

The plan was to go as light as we could. Just a hand full of tackle. A 3m whip and light line. We also had bread and maggots for hook bait and feed. We arrived at the swim and started to set up. Sue had bought a very small three-legged stool from Poundland the other day. On the flat it is far too low. I am sure they are intended for kids, but as the bank slopes away it gives a little more room for your feet. Sue sat on it for the whole time we were there and said it was more comfortable than she thought it would be, can't grumble at that for a pound. Sue sat and fed the swim with small peppercorn sized pieces of bread rolled between her fingers to make them sink.

I set about rigging the whip. After the usual struggle to get the rig off the winder without getting all tangled up with the second rig wound onto the same winder (Grrr!) I managed to attach it to the flick-tip and I was ready to fish. As Sue had been feeding bread (she is not keen on handling Maggots) I punched a piece of bread and hooked that onto my size 16 hook. The rig consisted of 0.1 line straight through to the hook with a small float-bead acting as the float. a single No.8 shot was crimped to the line about six inches above the hook.

That tree was great to lean on and disguise my outline.
Do you like my hat?


I flicked the rig out along the bank to land just about where Sue had been feeding. Within seconds the bead had disappeared and the tip was taking on a bend. Blimey! First ever river cast and I am into a fish. It was no small roach either. It was a good sized chublet, I would say it was about 8 inches in length and was very frisky. It was much too heavy to swing to hand so I brought it to the bank and hand-landed it. The only trouble was we did not have the camera to hand. Although that grubby mark on my shirt proves I had been trying to cuddle it!  We had only been there five minutes and in the water for about 30 seconds. I think all the commotion of hand-lining the chublet out of the water scared off all his mates as we did not see any more. I will take a landing net next time. I had no idea I was going to catch anything bigger then a couple of inches long, otherwise I would have gone back home and got a landing net once I had realised I had left it at home, on the way here. Instead I decided it would not be necessary - how wrong can you be!

My first river roach
I know we could have moved swims but this was only going to be a quick couple of hours, if that. Besides we could see lots of other fish milling about and it was possible they would return if we were quiet enough. It was not long before we were into another fish. This time a roach, on single white maggot, nothing to write home about but it was another fish.

This little perch found one of my red maggots
I decided to change to red maggot and as soon as I did, I caught a perch. I am really pleased there are perch in here, I think they are one of my favourite fish. Having said that, now I have caught a chub, well a chublet, Mr. Stripy may have some competition for that accolade.

By lunchtime we were back at home after having a brilliant couple of hours on the bank a short walk from my front door here in one of the most built up areas of South East London. My first trip to a river and I caught fish. I can't wait until tomorrow morning, when we will be attempting to catch some fish in the Great Stour as it meanders its way through Canterbury. I will be taking a float-rod with me and I fancy just just free-lining some bread to see if the chub are about. If not I will have a go at trotting a maggot or two and see what happens. 

Having never fished a river before, it looks like I will be hitting two in two days! How I spent the first 58 years of my life not fishing is a real puzzle to me. I never had the slightest interest in it as a kid - I wish I had - or maybe not. I might have got bored with it and taken up something else. Either way I can't get enough of it now, and there is always something new to discover.

And finally...

While fishing I caught a strange looking mini-fish that turned out to be a stickleback - my personal best - It is a shame the picture was not also one of my best!

My (fuzzy) PB stickleback!

Ralph.