Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Pass the chocolates...

Mmmm, Chocolate boilies...
A little while ago I was given an open packet of chocolate ginger biscuits by my mum. She had bought them by mistake thinking they were milk chocolate when they were in fact plain. After her and her friend had eaten several of them they decided that they did not like them. Being from am age where food was precious and rationing was part of daily life, the had to find someone to eat them, so on our next visit we were presented with said biscuits. I tried one; they are disgusting.

As I hate wasting anything they were instantly designated as 'fish food'. I though I might use them in a groundbait mix but then it occurred to me that they would make a good basis for a boilie mixture. I have not made any boilies for a while so it was out with the big saucepan and get the water boiling while we got to the ingredients together.

The recipe:
  • 100g Dry Breadcrumb
  • 150g Ground Plain Chocolate ginger biscuits 
  • 1½ tbs Drinking Chocolate Powder
  • 150g Semolina
  • 75g Rice Flour
  • 75g Dried Skimmed Milk
  • 5  Medium Eggs

All the dry ingredients were mixed together. The eggs were whisked in a separate bowl and then progressively added to the dry ingredients while mixing with a fork. Once the mixture became too stiff, the fork was put to one side and it was in with the hands to continue mixing until a firm doughy consistency, that did not stick to the hands, was achieved.

Squeeeeeeze!
This was loaded into a boilie-gun and squeezed out to make sausages that were rolled on a rolling table to make the boilies. These were left for a few minutes to air dry before being plunged into hot water for about forty-five seconds. The cooked boilies were allowed to stand on an old towel for about five minutes to cool and dry off before being placed in an onion bag to be hung up and dried for at least twenty-four hours.


Hot chocolate?
We had all sorts of trouble getting a consistent size. some were misshaped and others were all different sizes. It was not until we were cleaning up that I realised we were using a 14mm nozzle in the gun and a 12mm rolling table. Although this was a silly error the resultant boilies do make an interesting selection of shapes and sizes and look a little less unnatural. That said, I can't think of anything more unnatural than fish eating chocolate biscuits!

Ready to hang up for drying - onion bags are great for this
We also rolled some small 10mm boilies, using a small Gardner rolling table, for use as fill in PVA mesh/bags.

Small 10mm boilies will be used as PVA bag-fill
I will be using them later in the week when I am going fishing with my brother, for the first time since last November, so there is no need to worry about freezing them. Once dry they will sit in a bait box in the bottom of the fridge to keep dry and cool. I will let you know what the fish think of them...

...That is if I can stop Tim eating them first.

Ralph. 

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Monk Lakes - Different...


How to get a bit more shipping space!
Monk Lakes is a large commercial fishery in mid-Kent. For the past couple of years (nearly!) I have been fishing the same venue most of the time. I have been to other commercial fisheries, but they have all been smaller than my favoured 'old-slippers' venue, Beaver Fishery. Although Beaver covers a fairly large area, none of the waters there are huge with Major's Lake being the largest at three and a half acres.
Bridges Lake at Monk Lakes is 16 acres on its own. For me this was a real eye opener. The lake has a good stock of fish but it is really a place to target some of the larger specimen fish. Although the fish in this lake are not record breakers, they are still big to me.

I had no idea what to expect as I had not fished there before. I filled the van with tackle and made the decision choose exactly what I would do once I arrived at the peg. The first thing I realised was that this lake is not geared up for using a pole, except in one or two places. There is a gravel road that runs around the whole lake making access as good as it gets, but the trade off is there are few pegs with any room behind them. I had looked at the lake, using Goggle Maps, and picked a peg at the far end that looked like a good place to start.

The journey from here, in South East London, is an easy one and takes about the same time as travelling to Beaver. My concern about having to navigate Maidstone town centre was unfounded, hardly having to stop at all on the way there. However, Maidstone at seven o'clock in the evening is a complete nightmare. It was bumper to bumper and took me forty minutes to cover what had taken me four minutes in the morning, coming the other way. Next time I will take an alternative route home.

As the sun starts to burn off the mist, we await the grand opening of the gate
On arrival I was about fifteen minutes early and third in the queue, on a par with a visit to Beaver. What I did not expect was the rapidly growing queue of cars and vans behind me. By the time the gate opened the queue was stretching down the drive as far as I could see. Blimey! I knew this place was popular at the weekend but this was Wednesday. Now I am wondering if this was such a good idea.

The gate opened just after 07:00 and the convoy of miscellaneous tackle haulers made its way to the office like carp cruising the margins. It was at this point that the reason for the traffic queue revealed itself; there were two mid-week matches taking place on a couple of the four match lakes.

The road runs all the way around Bridges Lake
Just a small part of the acres of water in front of me
I paid my £10 day ticket and set off around Bridges Lake to the far end and my chosen peg. It is possible to park directly behind the peg. For me, especially on this first fact-finding visit, this made life so much easier. Following my new policy of keeping it simple was proving difficult as I had no idea of what to expect until I got there. My seat-box was fully stocked and I was not sure if I was going to use it. I usually take my accessory chair if I am on a pleasure trip, unless I intend to be pole fishing. In the end I filled the van with all sorts. I packed the box and the seat (never done that before!) as well as a huge selection of rods and a couple of poles. Yes, I know, way over the top but I just could not decide how to attack this new water. The only tackle I left behind was the carp gear.

I had no intention of using anywhere near all the tackle in the van but it gave me the opportunity to choose. The road behind the peg meant there was not enough room to ship back a long pole and I did not fancy moving pegs so I made the decision to stay in my comfort zone and try my luck at feeder fishing. I had picked a peg with no overhanging branches to give me a chance of getting a nice long cast. I have not been able to let rip with my 11ft feeder rod before so it was time to have a go. There was no way I was going to land on the opposite bank, so I first cast out to where I had left the line clipped up, last time out, and released the line. I retrieved the empty feeder and cast it as far as I could. Don't ask me how far that was, but it was a long way, at least for me. I was certainly far enough to cast to the island I was looking at to the left of my peg. After casting as close as I dare to the island, progressively cast clipping up and letting out a few feet of line each cast. I was checking the travel by holding the rod at 90º to my body as the line reached the clip, a style I find comfortable and I can 'lock' into the same position every time with ease. I am getting better at this, by no means perfect, but a vast improvement on a few months ago. Once I was confident about the distance I filled the feeder and recast, without a hook length, to check that the allowance I had made for the extra weight of the loaded feeder was correct and I was not going to land in the trees. Success.

The target area for my initial cast
Now for my first cast into this new-to-me water with a baited hook. A nice chunky lump of punched bacon grill and a small 30g feeder full of my Two Dog groundbait. Plop! Bang on target. I wish I had videoed that - It was the best cast I have ever made - I even amazed myself! After sinking the line I set the rod down on the rest at about 30º to the target area, with a bend in the tip, and started counting the seconds. I will usually wait forty seconds and cast again, especially on the first few casts to build a bed of groundbait over which to fish. I didn't get that far. First, a slight flicker and then the tip whipped around and I had a fish on. If this was a sign of how it was going to be, I was in for a great day. It turned out to be a reasonable sized tench.

First cast produced a nice tench
Over the next couple of hours I landed a couple more tench of similar size, including one male, and a couple of bream. It was not the catch rate that I was expecting after the first cast, but in some respects I prefer it that way. It then went dead; if it is too easy it can become very boring, very quickly. I am now thinking I should have packed the carp gear. Other anglers were fishing with carp set ups looking for the bigger fish. My feeder set up is geared for dragging F1s out of a match lake, this is more sedate fishing more on a par with specimen hunting. There are some fairly big fish in this lake. the guy on the adjacent bank caught a couple of big common carp in the high doubles.

I changed tactics and rods to fish closer in the open water in front of me and see what I could fine there. I wanted to try out my new-found knowledge and try fishing a light (15g) feeder using a light quiver tip. I had been trying to get a bend in a 1½oz quiver tip. Last week I experienced one of those moments of realisation, understandings one of those facts that everybody fishing already knows, and omits to tell you (me!). When using a light feeder, I could not get a bend in the tip of my rod using a 1½oz quiver tip because the tip was too strong and moving the feeder without bending. Or at least bending and recovering its straight stance. The lighter (¾oz) quiver tip bends before there is enough force to move the feeder enabling me to maintain a bend in the tip. Simple really, just taken me a year or so to work that out.

I made a few casts and did not even get a single line bite, let alone a take. Time for a rethink. There was not enough room on this peg to use a long pole, but a top-kit plus two (or three) might work. I had no intention of getting the box out so I just put a couple of small rollers behind me, a 'tulip' and rod rest on banksticks in front of me and I was ready to go. I got out my cheap 9.5m Maver pole. and used the top couple of sections. Nice and short and no problem shipping it back.

My part of the lake must have been small silver soup - I must have caught a hundred of them!
I added a rig, plumbed it up and started fishing. Single maggot on the size 18 hook and feeding maggots over the top. In no time I was catching silvers one after the other. In fact I was catching them before I had finished shipping the very short pole out. I tried feeding heavier and adding multiple maggots to the hook hoping to attract larger fish. I have been told that the small fish feeding attract larger fish, so I just kept going, fish after fish, I must have caught a hundred of them over the next couple of hours but none of them would have made the scales tip at a couple of ounces.    

Now I am bored again. By this time I had realised that I could ship the whole of my 9.5m pole back if I guided it under the van (see header picture), This meant I could ship back over the part of the road the van was protecting. Come on, admit it, the man's a genius!

9.5m of pole and not even a bite - I got this bit wrong
With this extra reach I thought I could target some larger fish, so I changed the hooklength to a hair rigged size 12 hook fitted with a meat stop. This way I could fish using bigger bait, such as meat and corn, hoping to entice some bigger fish. I fished this over several lines and blanked on all of them. By now time was moving on and I did not know what the leaving protocol was. The gate closes at seven o'clock but there is also a barrier to negotiate outside the office. Just as I was wondering about this, one of the bailiffs arrived in his incredibly tatty, red 4x4 pick-up truck, that has an irritating suspension squeak that would have driven me nuts. With a huge smile he passed the time of day and reassured me that someone would be at the barrier to raise it, and let me out, until the main gate was due to close.

My day at Monk Lakes was a different experience. The place has a far more 'commercial' venue than say Beaver, which feels far more relaxed. I think that is because Beaver is nowhere near as big but is set in a natural woodland setting. Having said that, It is not a bad thing, just different. I fished this lake, at least this peg, completely incorrectly. My tactics would probably have been more at home on one of the match lakes. Next time I fish this lake, I will be fishing using the kit I did not have with me on this visit; a couple of carp rods.

Although this place is more like an undulating field with a selection of holes dug in it, it is well kept and the people who run it seem to be friendly and helpful. Once at the peg I chose, the place feels far more intimate than I have made it sound. Bridges lake has a fair bit of cover and a lot of willow trees giving it a natural look, at least from the peg. The access to the pegs could not be better. I will be back and if I fish this lake again, which I probably will, I will know what to expect.

Ralph.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Something different

Fishing the one venue has its advantages, but it is about time I spread my wings further and take a look at a few new-to-me venues in Kent. The first of these is going to be Monk Lakes.

Part of the Monk lakes complex showing The two large lakes (Image ©2016 Google)
For the past year or so I have been fishing predominately at one fishery, Beaver Farm Fishery. It is very easy to put on those 'old slippers' and get into a rut. I am not turning my back on Beaver, as there is plenty of water there that has not had the experience of me fishing it yet...

Next week I am heading for the Monk Lakes complex in Marden, Kent. Just a few miles south of Maidstone on the A229, It is just under an hour away from me and the drive seems fairly painless, as long as Maidstone is not too busy at 06:30, the time I should be passing through.

I did make a quick visit to the venue this week, as I was in the area, and it does look enticing.There are several lakes, including four match lakes, a specimen lake and a couple of big pleasure lakes. It is one of the latter that I think I will have a go at first. It appears that it is possible to park close to the pegs which is something I like to do, and one of the attractions of Beaver.

Most people I have mentioned the place to, and have been there, have nothing but good things to say about the place. It seems the only thing that can be said against it is that it is very busy on Fridays and at the weekends. This is no problem to me as I usually fish during the week. Next week is no exception as I plan to visit Monk Lakes on Wednesday. I have not decided how I am going to fish it yet but I think I will go with rod, line and comfy chair for my first visit, following my keeping it simple approach that I am trying to follow. I can always make it more complicated on future visits!

Ralph.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Ever had the feeling...


...that it is not going to be your day?

Peg No.1 - Talk about tight!
I try and be methodical about getting my gear ready for any fishing trip. I think my problem at the moment is I am a little disorganised. We are in the process of packing up house after 37 years ready for an impending move and making a 'permanent' home for the fishing gear is not practical at the moment. Instead I have been able to use the utility room (now officially  re-designated "The Fishing Room") to store a lot of the stock of bait-making ingredients and all the rig-making gear. The rest is stood around in odd corners and behind doors. This accommodation is transient and as such certain items have no real home.

The relevance of the above will become clear. I also like to keep all my gear clean. I do not regard the evidence of the last trip as a badge of honour. My 'regular' rods get stripped and cleaned, reels are brushed off and washed if necessary before being made ready and stored in their rod-ready bag. Other rods and reels are dismantled and put away. No problem so far. All the gear was collected together and assembled in the hall ready for loading in the morning. I have never had any gear stolen from a vehicle overnight because it never gets left in there unattended. It only takes about fifteen minutes to load in the morning and that short amount of time spent in the morning means the rest of the night I can sleep easy.

As I started to load the van I realised I had no landing net heads. These are always dried and washed and dried again before being stored in a nice clean stink bag - No smell! They should be fairly obvious, but do you think I could see them. I checked the keep net stink bag to see if that had been put in there, but no. I finished loading the van and still the nets were still missing. Where on earth can two 20 inch spoon nets in a small keep net stink bag go? I looked high and low. By now the blood pressure was rising and if we had a cat he would have been in danger of being kicked. Well, not really, but you get the idea. At this point I am getting concerned about the time so I collect a couple of other nets that 'will do' and pack those. One last look around and the nets are still missing. This is the sort of thing that has the potential of ruining my day as I would have been thinking about their whereabouts all day, concocting theories from 'the missus through them out to 'maybe they were stolen by aliens'. I went to check the living room and there was the bag leaning against the side of the sofa. I must have had it in my hand when I went in there to watch something on the television and put it down... At least it proves it doesn't stink!

Now, with the weight of the world taken from my shoulders I can get on the road. Even after the great stink bag incident, I was still on the road in plenty of time at get to the venue in time for the August match at Beaver Fishery. I had missed last months match due to other commitments - work. Everything was going well until I got to within a couple of miles of the venue and it started to rain. WHAT!!!

I hate setting up in the rain...
That was not on the forecast. I am not that bothered by a spot of rain these days (now I am a hardened fisherman) but I hate setting up in the wet. I arrived about fifteen minutes early to be the first one at the gate. By the time the gate opened there was a respectable queue, and it looked as if I would not be fishing alone. Parking the van just behind the match control office (aka Jeff's lake chalet), I jumped out of the van to get a look at the draw. After letting out a string of words even I had not heard before, the reality of what I was looking at sunk in - peg No.1 AGAIN! It started to rain again. Only lightly, but enough to make everything damp. I don't often get a 'time to go home moment' but this was one of them. I resisted the temptation and soldiered on.

When the whistle went for the all-in, I was actually ready. I sent out an unloaded method feeder baited with a lump of Bacon Grill, just to have something fishing while I baited up a second rod, ready to use. Not expecting anything to happen, I was shocked to find myself playing a fish. the other rod was hastily returned to the roost and I battled the fish I had on, first cast. I managed to land the fish and was unhooking it in the landing net, when, with one almighty flip it launched itself straight back into the lake in the gap between my keep nets. Reflecting on what had just happened with total disbelief, I took a deep breath, rebated the feeder and cast again. Whoopee! another fish on straight away. Straight into the reeds, nothing I could do, as it snapped me off. Again I rebated, this time after fitting a new hook length, and cast. Again, I had a fish on almost immediately. This one gave fight and slipped the hook at the net.

Okay, we are only fifteen minutes in, the fish are biting like mad, all I have to do is get them in. At this point I am not overly concerned. Then it went dead. No fish showing anywhere, no bubbles no disturbance, nothing. After what seemed like an age, I gave up on the feeder and switched to the pellet waggler. I threw a few pellets in and watched them sink, I threw a few more and still no action. I cast over the pellets, zilch, nada, nothing.  I tried the pole at various lengths and the only bite I had decided it did not want to play any more. Just as I was getting it ready to net, it slipped the hook. 

The only technique that was catching me fish was the method feeder filled with good old Two Dog groundbait feeder mix and punched Bacon Grill on the hook. Although I was catching the fish in small runs of two or three at a time, between periods of nothing, landing them was becoming a problem. In this corner of the lake there is no room to allow the fish to run without connecting with reeds or other vegetation. Trying to prevent them doing this was proving difficult. A large part of this is down to my lack of experience and bad technique. I did modify my tactics to try and be a little less aggressive but this would result in the fish getting to the reeds. If I put enough pressure on to stop the fish I was in danger of having the hook length break or the hook pulling out.

I realised for, the first time, some of the limitations of cheaper gear. My reels just do not have the finesse of adjustment required of the drag control. The drag can be locked up solid and within less than a quarter turn, it is free. My rod does not have the smooth action required. In more open water I would be able to let the fish run for a much greater distance and not having to be so aggressive.

After a while I managed to find a spot where I could hook the fish, closer to the reeds, and by applying pressure towards open water I had more of a chance of getting the fish to the net. That is if it did not shake itself loose. I am sure I lost more fish than I landed. Although I do loose the odd fish throughout a match, I have not experienced this level of escapees before.

Fuzzy me with my fish
While that was all going on. I did catch a few nicer fish. In one case, I put the fish in the net, picked up my rod and wound in the empty feeder that I had tossed back into the lake while dealing with the fish. As I did so the reel stiffened to a simultaneous crackling sound and the sight of the rod tip sliding down the line. Great! I had broken yet another quiver top. because the line had blown over the tip and compressed the tip beyond its braking point - again. I put it to one side and fished with an identical (or so I thought) rod I had set up for this sort of reason. It turned out to have a different weight feeder on it and I had miscalculated the the distance I had clipped it up so that was doing me no favours. I went back to the other rod, removed the quick-change bead and feeder so I could recover the tip ring. I cut down the tip to the second ring and re-rigged it. It worked all right but my catch rate was not getting any better.

I had several attempts at fishing higher up in the water with  no success at all. The fish were just not there. I tried lengthening and shortening the rig, but nothing was even offering a twitch. Once the ripples from the pellets had subsided, the float stood there motionless like a becalmed yacht. I gave up. Last week on the other side of the lake I was catching them both on the pellet waggler and the dibber on the pole. I gave up with the shallow fishing and went back to the feeder. After resting it for half an hour or so, this produced three or four catches one after the other which I landed all but one, until the bites died again and it all went quiet.

With about half an hour to go I decided to fish for silvers close in using just the top kit. Using totally the wrong set up, I snipped the pellet band off the rig and using the size 16 hook on 10-12 elastic went silver fishing for what ever I could find. A single maggot on the hook and a sprinkling of free offering enabled me to catch a good few small roach which probably added a pound to my total bag.

The results list
That was it, six hours of frustrating fishing. I came in 9th in the end but there was not much between me and the 8th and 7th placed anglers. I missed my total of last year by 8 ounces, but I did have a much better peg last year. I am sure I would have landed a few more in open water. I now know why most of the other guys dislike this peg.

If I get this peg next time I will be fishing Maze Lake instead!

Although it may seem as if the day was a disaster, it was not. I learnt an awful lot from the experience that I will work on over my next few visits. If it all went perfectly to plan and I had a bag full of fish, I may have won a prize but I would not have learnt anything, so I was happy.

Having said that, I would have been even happier if I had won a prize!

Next time...

Ralph       

Saturday, 30 July 2016

A-Maze-ing!

Last time I fished this side of the lake - Maze Lake can be a bit bleak in the winter...
It has been well over a year since I last went purely float fishing. Like most of us, my first encounter with rod and line was with a float rod and a waggler. There was not much fineness about the whole endeavour. My rod had been described as a 'bit of a broomstick', The reel had been pre-loaded with 12lb line and my hook lengths were about three feet long because that is how they came in the packet.

Even so, I did manage to catch fish and actually land them. Most of the fish I caught were small silvers and about half a dozen in a session, but I was happy and catching the odd skimmer/bream was an event. By June, last year, I had been invited to join in one of the friendly matches at Beaver Fishery. I had said from from day one of my journey that I was not interested in match fishing and all I was intending to do was spend a few hours on the bank, catching fish for pleasure.

Well... I am still not interested, in serious match fishing. I am not the most competitive person ever to cast a rod. The only sports I have had anything to do with (darts and snooker) usually involve beer and were pursued as an excuse for a pint, as we have no got a dog (Just taking the dog for a pint... er... I mean walk, Dear). Friendly matches are different, they are great fun and I have learnt a lot from talking to the guys and trying new techniques. I have even managed not to be last - so far.

I discovered that I could catch a whole lot more fish with a method feeder and they were a lot bigger than the silvers I had caught on my waggler. I had tried using a feeder rod fairly soon after taking up fishing but spent most of the time losing feeders in trees and bushes. It was not until I got to my first match that I had even used one before. The guy in the tackle shop said that would be the way to go. Armed with my feeder rod and my first batch of Two Dog groundbait to use as a feeder mix, I was off. From that day on I was moving further and further away from my initial intention and now with more kit than I know what to do with the 'pleasure' was in danger of becoming a chore.

Lush with vegetation Maze Lake looks a bit more inviting this time of year
Yesterday I decided to go fishing with just a float rod and a minimum of  tackle. My only concession to that was to pack a spare rod and reel in case something went wrong with the particular combination I had chosen to use. Minimal kit meant I could take the car; it was just like turning the clock back to those early visits to Bax Farm (Now The Willows Angling Centre) and Beaver Fishery, nearly two years ago.

The alarm went off at the usual time and because I had so little gear to load I was ready in half the time it usually takes. I twiddled my thumbs for a bit before leaving, took a leisurely drive down to Beaver and was still there fifteen minutes early.

After the usual pleasantries were exchanged - me handing over my ten quid and a couple of 'ello mates' it was off to Maze Lake to claim my favoured peg. By 07:20 I was fishing. Result!

I had pre-rigged my vintage rod that my mate Dave had given me. This I paired with a modern fixed spool reel loaded with 6lb line. I did not want to go too light as there are some bigger fish in this lake. Officially the carp are no bigger then 10lb but I know for a fact some are a lot bigger than that. There is a seventeen pounder that got put back and now the bailiff is offering a prize to anyone who can catch it. I also had a spool of 4lb line with me in case the heaver line became problematic.

 As well as the usual bait, maggots, sweetcorn, bread and bacon grill, I had a packet of Tesco 'Everyday' frozen prawns I was hoping to tempt a perch to take my hook. I also had an ice cream tub full of damp groundbait that had been enhanced with all sorts of free offerings. This was for feeding my swims and hopefully hold some fish in my peg.

Bait selection - feed and hook bait
I started fishing with a smallish (size 18) hook and a single maggot. I was using one of those Drennan Glow Tip Antenna floats. I like the idea of these floats as the hooped colour scheme helps to show lift bites as well as the normal dip indication. I have only used these floats a hand full of times as I have not done much float fishing at all over the past year or so. Every time I have used these floats I have lost the antenna as it tends to part company with the body after a while. Although it is easy enough to make a new antenna it is not really very good. I must write to Drennan and tell them about it.
Drennan Glow Tip Antenna float
I digress. For a good hour or so nothing was happening. I changed depth, hook size and bait but still nothing was happening. I was just about to think about changing the line for the lighter stuff when the float tip disappeared. At Last a fish! as I struck I could feel that frantic vibration of a very small fish. I was correct, the first of about fifty small silvers was about to be hauled out of the water and unhooked. For the next few hours all I could catch was small roach and rudd. I thought once I started catching the smaller fish, the bigger ones, would follow. Apart from a couple of slightly larger fish,  maybe a two or three ounces, the size was not increasing by any significant amount.

The biggest rudd of the day - I still enjoy catching the little fellows
A change of hook size to a larger one and using some different bait paid off and I landed several skimmers/bream. One of these fish jumped clear of the water, nodded and thrashed for a bit before doing the usual thing of laying on its side resigned to the fact that it was going to be landed. The fishing was getting easier. Mainly roach rudd and bream, nothing overly large but some of the bream were of a decent size. I must have had getting on for ten pounds of roach/rudd in a few hours, non of them of any size that would turn a head.

By now I was doing far better than I have ever done on a waggler before. In the past I had caught the odd bream, today I was catching them one after the other. Although I am far from an expert at any of this fishing lark, I must be getting better at it. Balling in the ground bait initially and topping it up from time to time seemed to work well but eventually attracted the wrong type of attention.

Now look you lot, go and find somewhere else to play... Please!
Maze Lake is fairly shallow which means an upended swan can easily reach the bottom and eat my free offering. Even a good talking to only resulted in a 'make me' sort of look and a hiss. These guys are extremely tame even with young'ens in tow. They will feed from your hand, if you are brave enough, although that does mean they stick around longer. Personally I was happy to stop fishing for ten minutes and watch the swans. The signets make a sort of soft whistling noise that is only audible at close range and I had no idea that made such a sound.

A small piece of prawn hook bait
Once the swans made there way off to pastures new, it was back to the fishing. Prawns. By now the prawns had defrosted. It was at this stage in the proceedings that I realised they were "in a protective ice glaze". I assume this claptrap is just an excuse for making weight. I must get a packet and investigate further. Either way at just over £2.00 a packet they are not overly expensive. In fact, next time I will take half a pack which, for me will be plenty.

I chopped a few up using my tackle scissors. A pair of those multi-bladed scissors that are intended for chopping up live worms (yuck!) would be useful here. I am not too bothered about chopping up ready-cooked prawns, but causing mass carnage to a group of unsuspecting worms is a totally different thing...

This bream thinks he's a perch and has been eating Mr stripe's bait. That will teach it...
A handful of chopped prawn was introduced into the swim and the bait was cast into the area. A few seconds later and the float tip disappeared in one motion. I had caught something!   The rod tip bent over and with expectation I played the fish until it was ready to surface. How big is this, I am thinking to myself. This would have been a good sized perch, if it was not for that fact it was a bream. Trust me to find a bream with expensive taste.

Well, at least it is a perch
I cast again and once the float had settled I catapulted in a few bits of chopped prawn. it was not long before the float was on the move, first up, then sideways. I lifted the rod to set the hook and I got it. Probably one of the smallest perch in the lake but at least it was a perch. A few more followed but non of them would have made much of a meal for a bigger perch. Just as I was thinking this was getting boring, the float took of and the rod took on a bend unseen in my time as custodian of this very nice old length of carbon fibre. Just as I was wondering how to play this it snapped back and the fish was gone. The four pound hook length had snapped and whatever it was had gone.

Having given up on the perch I decided to put a hair rigged hook length on with a meat stop. I had a lot of meat with me chopped up into various size cubes and punched into several sized 'pellets'. Having had lots of success with meat on the feeder as hook bait, I had never caught anything on it using a waggler. That changed and I was catching bream easily. At this point I was still using the same Drennan float. Then with a ping the hook link snapped and the rig came home by air! It was at this point I noticed the tip had gone. It had not snapped, simply pulled out of its socket. Although I had another float, time was now marching on and I had another target in mind.

That small red dot is the tip of the float
As I was fishing, I had noticed what looked like a fairly nice sized carp patrolling the margin and right across my peg not a foot from the edge and only just below the surface. I had dropped a baited hook right in front of it a couple of times but to no avail. This was the ideal opportunity to change tackle and see if I could possibly catch it. I replaced the broken float with a pre loaded crystal waggler and shot it down so it was just showing above the surface. I fitted a new short hook length with hair and meat stop as before and set the depth to about 15in. While I was doing this I had been feeding the margin with some of the chopped bacon grill that, by this time, was  crunchy and oozing oil as it had been exposed to the mild sun all day. There were signs of activity. I flicked the float down the margin and fed over it. as the bait was off the bottom, the float was travelling my way with the movement of water through the lake. I did this a couple of times and got nothing. I shortened the depth by about 3in and tried again. That was looking better I was getting some indications, no bites but something was interested. Then with a big take the drag screamed off and I was on a big (for me) fish. I slowly tightened the drag and stopped the fish from diving into the undergrowth as I played the fish it showed itself and I had caught the fish I had targeted. Well, a dog with two tails could not have been happier. Okay not the biggest fish in the lake but going a couple ounces over 6lb was fine by me.

Gotcha!  Nobody was more surprised than me, except maybe the fish
By now it was well after 6 o'clock and as the gate closes at 7 o'clock. I needed to think about packing up. As I had not been fishing with much gear today I had time for that one last cast. I rebated the hair and cast again, not expecting much. Within seconds I was into another fish. This time it was a fair sized bream that gave a good account of itself. Anyone who says bream don't fight had not met this one. Right to the net it was determined to be somewhere else but eventually I got it on the bank and unhooked it. As I was unhooking it there was a little guy with his mum and dad, watching the proceedings. He had been fishing with his dad, and was saying "Look Dad, big fish". He was really excited so I asked him if he wanted to return it to the lake in the landing net. He did, with huge enthusiasm.

That was it for the day, and what a day. A minimum of tackle, a few different baits and I was fishing all day. I may not be the worlds greatest angler but I had one of the best days out I have had in a long time. Limiting the gear I take with me is the way to go. I can't wait to do it again.

Next week I will be back at Beaver for the August match. I had to miss the July event as I had to work so I am looking forward to trying not to come last!

Ralph.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Me and a float rod...

Last time out things got a little too complicated; rods and poles all over the place. I had got to the point where tackle was taking over and I was not enjoying my fishing.

It was back in April last year that I last had a session on the waggler, fishing Maze lake. It is definitely time to get some sanity back into my fishing. Shortly after that trip I had discovered method feeder fishing and got involved in fishing the friendly matches at Beaver. I have spent most of the past year feeder fishing and playing around with a spot of pole fishing to the total exclusion of the waggler. Time to strip back to the basics and get fishing again.

Vintage rod has great looks...
A while ago I had been talking with some guys on one of the fishing forums about the fact that I had very little experience with older fishing gear. All my tackle being new, relatively cheap kit. A very Kind chap who goes by the name of DaveTheFish offered to pass on  some old rods for me to try. One of these is a very nice 12ft Milo, Deep Blue, Match rod. I have tried this rod before but that was a bit half hearted attempt at catching a perch. See THIS POST, just over half way down. My plan is to spend the day fishing with this rod and a waggler on Maze lake. Although I will take a few different hook-baits, I intend to use mainly maggots.

The intention is to use just one rod, but I will have a spare in the car just in case something goes wrong. Yes, I am taking the car, I have got all the relevant permissions required to carry maggots and smelly nets in Sue's car.

Keeping it simple means I only have to take minimal kit. Even so the list is reasonably long but I can't see how I can make it any less. The list is as follows: My chair, bait waiter, bait, table, unhooking mat, landing net and handle, rod(s), reel, bank stick, rod rest and my new small tackle bag (a bargain from Aldi) full of all the tackle I will need for the day. Let's hope I have not forgotten anything. Now the gear is sitting there, in the hall, ready to be packed into the car in the morning. I have to keep checking that I have got everything. Roll on tomorrow!

Ralph.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Too much stuff going on...

Majors lake from the other side...
I have fished Major's Lake at Beaver Fishery several times and had varying success. I first fished it from the front with Tim back in the day when we had very little tackle and even less experience. That day we had very few fish and they were all in the tiddler* category. Subsequent visits had also been in the 'few things to brag about' league. That was until recently when I discovered a part of the lake I had not fished before, on the bank between Major's and Maze lakes. I had a great day there on my own and an even better day when I went with Duncan. Buoyed with enthusiasm for this lake, I decided to have a go around the other side. I selected a swim that had great potential in my eyes. A couple of patches of lilly pads  and lots of overhanging bushes crying out for offerings of tackle.

Preston over/under pole rests
There were several things I wanted to try out and I had loaded the van with all sorts of rods and poles. Sometimes I think taking the van is a bad idea. I could put every bit of fishing gear I own in the back and still have plenty of space left over. Restricted carrying space might concentrate the mind somewhat and stop me packing so much gear.  I really enjoy my pleasure fishing from a nice comfortable chair rather than perched upon my box. This is fine in a match situation and is not for such a long period. Fishing from a nice comfy chair is not so good for pole fishing, although some people don't seem to find it a problem.

Whilst discussing it on the Maggot Drowning forum, the Preston over/under gripper pole rests were mentioned and a fellow member offered to sell me a pair. These I had with me and though I would use them with the long Maver pole to fish the edges of the lilly pads. I also wanted to try feeding my swim to encourage fish in or keep any that happened to be there. This is on top of putting out a sleeper rod to fish the far margin, do a spot of feeder fishing and try out the margins with my shorter Maver Abyss X. You see what I mean about too much stuff?  Although I had a twelve hour session to fill it is amazing how quickly the time can pass.

First of all I wanted to have a go at feeding my swim. Before I did anything else I balled out a few tennis ball sized balls of goodies. This was made up of all sorts of goodies including breadcrumb, ground biscuit ground as well as boiled whole birdseed, hemp, corn, meat, dog biscuit and much more.

While that was sitting there I put out a carp rod with chod-rigged boilie, sitting close to the bank in front of some reeds. I then sent out a few small balls of the feed just to make some attractant. The rod was set up on a pair of banksticks and buzzer, just waiting for that screaming bite.

Now for the main event. I set my chair up with the over/under cups fitted and assembled my pole. What I had not realised was just how far out those lilly pads were. I had expected to get to them easily but with the pole out using all sections (14.5m) I was still just short. At that distance, my pole is a real handful on my box and almost impossible to control from my comfortable seated position. Although the cups held the pole perfectly, shipping it in and out was a real nightmare. I gave up on the 'real' poles and put them back in the van.  By now a  few hours had passed and I had nothing on the carp rod, not even a line-bite.

The one and only fish of the morning
I thought I would try fishing over the fed areas using my most successful method, the feeder. Usually I would use the feeder to build a cover of groundbait and be catching after a couple of casts. With all that groundbait already there, this should have been simple. Cast after cast produced nothing and then just as I was about to give up the tip swung around and I had caught a fish - four and a half hours into the session. It turned out to be a nice size female tench. That was to be the only fish that I caught from Major's Lake. I tried the pellet waggler and even my Hippo was drawing a blank. By lunchtime I decided this spot was not for me and retreated to the safety of Jeff's Lake.

I put the made up rods and gear in the back of the van and decamped lock stock and barrel. I thought about hitting The Pond (Eden Pond) but ran into Andy (the bailiff) on the way around and he said there were a couple or three people fishing there already. Eden is a small pond. Apart from the fact that the best swims were probably already taken, I did not want to spoil their day by me turning up and muscling in on their action. So it was off to Jeff's Lake.

A map of the complex at Beaver Fishery
1-Snipe Lake, 2-Tuscany Lake, 3-Jeff's Lake, 4 Major's Lake, 5-Maze Lake, 6-Moat Farm, Pond,
7-Daughter's, 8-Eden pond, 9-Jounior's Lake, 10-Horseshoe Pond
In the map above I was parked in the parking right at the top of the map by Daughter's Lake (9) . Major's Lake (10) is not that far from Jeff's Lake (3) but the road takes the scenic route around the fishery, as can be seen. I like the fact that it is possible to drive around the fishery on hard surfaces all year round with most lakes having parking adjacent to at least a few pegs making it ideal for anyone with a disability or mobility issues.

The back of the lake where I like to fish from had been taken by some school kids and their teachers. I assume this was an end of year treat. However, this had obviously gone pair shape as they were packing up to leave.  Andy had told me the teacher had paid him and said that one of the kids was misbehaving so the trip was cancelled and they were off back to school.

I parked a safe distance away, eating my pack lunch, and watched the unhelpful and rude kids do nothing but moan as the teachers were collecting the gear together. As I got to the parking they were just leaving and one of the kids was walking around the car to get in. He looked at me and I asked if he had caught anything "Yeah." came the reply "That's good, did you have a nice time?" I asked. "Nah" came the reply and with that he got in the car and slammed the door. They drove off leaving me wondering if all mid-teens are monosyllabic?  I could now get on with the serious task in hand and attempt to catch some fish.

What a surprise, an F1 on the Two Dog...
Just to get some fish on the bank, it was out with the feeder and the Two Dog ground bait feeder mix. First cast, a fish, and another, and another. Okay that has proved I can still catch 'em but it can get very boring. I then tried a cage feeder stuffed with groundbait and maggots, dead maggot on the hook. I use a slightly different approach with this type of feeder. I use a longer hooklength of 12-15 inches and give the feeder 30 seconds or so to discharge its contents, the maggots help this on its way. I then pull the feeder back another 12 inches or so, hopefully leaving the hook bait sitting on top of the pile. Well, that's theory, but in this case the fish are intercepting it on the way down. In fact the fish were going after anything that moved. I had a few F1s using this method but it was also getting boring.

Ideal conditions for a spot of pellet waggling. Out with the pellet waggler rod. Feeding 6mm pellets, and dropping the float on top, it took a few goes to get the depth just right and then  the F1s were churning the water and I could pull them out one after the other every few seconds. I could have caught hundreds of pounds of them. The only problem with all this is that it gets mechanical. Great for match fishing but very quickly gets monotonous.

Great fun at last. try landing a feisty F1 on light gear and thin elastic with no puller
Time for something different. I had my Hippo with me so it was time for some fun. It is really suited to silvers and worked wonders rooting out the small perch on Major's a few weeks ago. Here I was going to try it using a selection of hook bait and a fine 8-10 solid elastic. I knew I was most likely to catch the F1's but they would be fun to play and eventually land. This I did for a while working off the bottom, if I could get the bait down that far. I did manage it a few times and actually caught a small bream (large skimmer?) by fishing with bread punch and no feed.

It took a while to get in, but when it gave up it just played dead, like bream do
Fishing off the bottom was a waist of time and besides every time the fish throw a hook it would retract to the pole-tip and proceed to tie itself in knots any boy scout would be proud of. How does it do that? I changed rigs to a Drennan Crystal Dibber for fishing high in the water. With this on the Hippo, I had a good few hours fun experimenting with different hook baits and depths. It did not seem to matter what I used in the way of hook size and bait combination I could catch something on almost anything.

I had a large hook on for bread and I thought as some of my maggots, that I had been keeping for the past three weeks or so, had started to turn in the warm sunshine, I would give one a go. I impaled a caster on the large hook, just to see what would happen. It did not take long for another F1 to hitch a ride to the surface and into my landing net. It caught a fish, almost straight away. I think I could have used a bent pin and cotton tied to a stick and so long as there was something on the pin as bait I would have caught a fish. I had great fun in the end and was absolutely ready to pack up when a fish threw the hook again and the little dibber, line and shot ended up wrapped around the tip.

Time to go home, methinks
Next time I am going to go completely the opposite way and go light. just a couple of old float rods given to me by a friend and some wagglers, a few slices of bread and a pint of maggot. I am going to spend a day float fishing. Today I had a van-load of gear, a big plan and it turned out that the best fishing was done with a £10 Tele-Pole fitted with a cheap bit of elastic.

KISS - Keep It Simple Stupid.

Ralph.



* Did you know?
According to Wikipedia, Tiddler can refer to: 
      A small fish
      A small motorcycle, similar to a moped but with a bigger engine
      Also, Tiddly, a barbershop