Wednesday, 5 October 2016

152 ounces sounds better than 9½ pounds...

The water was much clearer today than it has been for a while
Having missed the last match through oversleeping (yes me!) I was determined not to miss this one as I thought it would be the last of the season. As it turns out it was not, I'll explain later. For once I was organised well in advance. Bait and rigs all sorted well in advance and a new slimmed down approach to what tackle I really needed to take with me.

As usual the alarm went off just before 05:00 and I was out of bed and running like a sprinter out of the blocks as the gun went off. Well, I managed to stand up without staggering around to get my balance - that's a start. All I had to do was make my coffee and pack the last items from the fridge into my bag. Bottle of drink - check! Sandwiches - check! Maggots- check! The van was loaded in record time and like a robot I got in the van and drove off with no regards of the time. My normal routine will get me on the road just before 06:00. As I was driving down my road the 05:30 news came on the radio. Groan...

After taking it as slowly as I reasonably could, being overtaken by articulated lorries on the motorway, and if we still had them, letting the milk float out-drag me at the lights, I still arrived half an hour before the gate was due to open. Even the fishery cat was curious as to what idiot was here half an hour early and sat on his side of the gate trying to stare the van out. The gate opens at exactly 07:01 (Radio 4 time), I notice these things. As I started the engine and drove through, I was hoping I had drawn a different peg. The last two matches I had drawn the same peg, a peg I would rather not have fished from. To my relief I had drawn the peg I would have picked given the choice.

The new organised set-up meant I was ready to fish in record time having everything ready to go an hour before the all-in. I had time to go for a chat with the other competitors. Estimates for how the day was going to work out ranged from dreadful to excellent. Somewhere in between would make me happy. A day spent on the lake, the week before last, confirmed I was not going to use the pole in a match here until I was feeling a little more confident. Today it was going to be all about feeder fishing, something I am happy with and proven to work for me.

Pawel, to my left, was catching all the fish that were heading for my groundbait
The all-in was called and I cast a loaded feeder out to the first of my target areas, waited for a minute and cast again. Third cast and I was away. A nice sized F1. Great! next cast another and then a couple more casts and another. Twenty minutes gone and three fish in the keep-net. There I was thinking this could be my day. Two and a half hours later I caught another fish, but this one got away by shaking the hook loose. I was fishing a 9ft feeder (picker) rod to the same spot. Time for a change. I had an 8ft rod set up to fish closer in on the same line. This failed to produce a bite. Despondent at my lack of fish, I decided to try and supplement my haul with a few silvers. No luck. This was turning out to be a disaster. Looking around there was not many catching. It was obviously a hard day all around.

Well, at least I wasn't last...
By the time the all-out was called I had caught five fish and a total weight of 9½lb which to my total surprise was not last. I have now worked out that the fish must swim anti-clockwise around Jeff's lake as the winning peg was to my left and he caught all my fish as they were making for my groundbait.

Joking aside, the lake was very much clearer than it was last time I fished it. I could see the end of my keep nets and the bottom of the close margins. What I could not see was any fish. It is said that fish do not like feeding over light-coloured groundbait and my Two Dog groundbait feeder mix is bright yellow. The guy who won the match was using a feeder and a dark coloured groundbait. I feel a new groundbait recipe coming on here...

The best fish of the day came after the match finished
I stayed on fishing for two or three hours after the match but only caught a few more fish. The weather is definitely on the turn and the water is clearing. Time to brush up on the silver fish technique and if time permits I feel a few trips down the Regent's Canal over the next few months with the little plastic fish and very light dropshotting gear chasing the perch, is in order.

Looks like there will be a November match this year as lots of the guys were up for it so I will get one more in this year. The Southern Fur 'n' Feather is held on the one day in December I have to work. Last year it was held on a Sunday but this year it is a Saturday, always a dodgy day for me as work can often get in the way.


Friday, 30 September 2016

They are getting bigger!

My new barrow soon became overloaded
What started out to be a very slow day got worse when the we got soaked in a downpour got a lot better in the end. Today was going to be a bit of an experiment. Tim and I had decided to try some carp tactics and set up a pair of carp rods.  To use pop-up boilies over a particle bed and PVA bags on or around the hook to get a nice parcel of freebies out there was the plan.

We arrived at Beaver Fishery for the opening at 07:00 with the idea of fishing a part of The Major's lake we had not fished before. After paying our day ticket and getting official approval to use the particle bait I had prepared, we parked up near the lake and armed with a rod and bomb, went prospecting the deeper end of the lake. We settled on a nice swim with a good area of water in front of us at the deeper end of the lake. All the gear was loaded onto my new barrow (I think I need to perfect my loading!) with the rod we had used to search for a suitable swim laying across the top.

Tim had not used a 12ft carp rod before, so we found a peg that had no overhanging trees and Lessons began. You know what they say about teaching family members to drive, well the same could be said about teaching little brothers how to fish. I refuse to discuss the next couple of hours, but suffice to say, Tim can now cast a carp rod.

Now it was my turn to teach myself something; laying a bed of particles. I had prepared a supply of particles a few days ago. The were approved for use by the fishery officer this morning so all I had to do now was get them out there. I don't own a spod or spomb or a rod capable of delivering one. I suppose one of my carp rods would do at a push but that would mean either re-rigging it or only being able to fish with one rod. As this is new to me at the moment I intended to make do with just spooning it out.

Having never tried this before, I found it much harder to use than I had expected. The short handle is good for throwing short distances and that was reasonably successful. Screwed to a landing net pole, it is perfect for cupping into the margins but not really necessary and not what I wanted to do. Trying to fire it long-range was almost impossible.  I could not achieve any distance with the short handle and my landing net poles are not rigid enough to use as an extended throwing handle. I also risk breaking the things as they are not designed to take that sort of punishment.

After a few attempts at trying to get the particles where I wanted them, it was obvious that my plan to use an old telescopic landing net handle was flawed. Time for a rethink. I have since researched the subject and discovered that Gardner make such an item, designed primarily as a baiting spoon handle that is capable of long-range work. I will have to investigate further and have a rummage around in the workshop...

Meanwhile we decided to  feed some particles down the margins and see what we could catch there. This we did without any success. In the end the two carp rods were cast out to their target areas loaded with PVA bags of freebies containing the bomb and baited hook length. These two rods were placed between where we were sitting where either of us could reach them. These rods were re-cast/re-baited  several times during the day with no results at all. We were not alone, others we spoke to during the day had not caught anything either.

Tim caught several roach of around this size
While we were sitting there guarding our carp rods, like a couple of expectant mothers, we were doing a spot of close-in float fishing. Tim is as happy as a dog with two tails sitting there watching a float and gets all excited if it even moves let alone if he strikes into a fish. During the course of the day he caught several roach and a sprinkling of perch all one or two steps above 'tiddler' class. I also managed a couple of small silvers during the morning after helping Tim to sort his rigs out - he had left his glasses behind. I suppose they were with his flask of coffee he also left behind. Still that saved me the bother of having to drink the other half of my flask...

Another perch meant at least Tim was catching fish
Talking of sustenance, the now standard breakfast was served at around 09:00. Baked beans, ravioli and frankfurters. That went down a treat and this time I managed to get my fair share of the grub before the other bloke downed the lot!

By lunch time we were just settled in. The fishing was slow but we had solved most of the world problems and decided we could make a far better job of running the country than any of the mob that are doing it now or were likely to do so in the future. Just as we were pitting our brains to solve global warming (or is that climate change' these days?) the sky clouded over and the sun went in. There was now a nip in the air and Tim was reaching for his coat. Me, being much hardier than him stuck it out in my tee-shirt for at least another two minutes before donning the obligatory green hoodie.

Now, that is going to make the fish wet...
Then it happened, totally unexpected by me it started to rain not just a few spots but a full-blown downpour, it chucked it down. Thanks! We folded the chairs backs down, covered the bait and made for cover, lunch in hand. It must have rained for a while, everything was soaked through. The towels had protected the bait and after wiping any surplus water off the rest of the gear we were back fishing.  The place did look a bit like a Chinese laundry for a while but as the sun emerged from behind the clouds it warmed us up and dried most of the rest of the tackle nicely.

Andy the bailiff reappeared and we bemoaned the lack of action together, pointing out that the heavy rain would have dropped the water temperature. He did point out a peg, a few yards up the bank, that was opposite a lot of overhanging trees. He said this was a favourite feeding spot. In the shallow water under the overhang we could see fish cruising to and fro. A ghostie rolled, breaking the surface as if to say "you can't catch me".  The trouble was the peg was tight so there would not have been enough room for two of us and the whole idea of us fishing together is just that, to fish together and chat, as we get no other time together apart from the odd family bash.

Every couple of hours we recovered the carp rods to inspect the bait and attach another bag of freebies. I gave up with the close in waggler fishing and decided to have a last-ditch attempt at catching something on the gravely spot, just in front of the island, by a patch of lilies.  I had a 9ft picker rod, rigged with a 30g large feeder, ready in the bag. I loaded it with Two Dog groundbait method mix and a nice lump of bacon grill on the hook. This was all nice and sweaty by now as it had been sitting in the sunshine for a few hours by now. I cast it out three or four times to the same spot to build up a small pile of groundbait. On the last cast, I changed the bacon grill for a new piece and let it sit there. Nothing happened.

If this was Jeff's Lake I would have been pulling F1s out by the bucket load but here on The Major's Lake it is a different thing all together. Sitting there chatting with the rods in the water, the still calm of the afternoon was shattered as the reel on the little picker rod suddenly yanked into action as was paying out line at a phenomenal rate. I picked up the rod and tightened the drag.  The rod bent around and the line slowed to a stop. I gently applied pressure and the line started to allowed itself to be recovered, very slowly. My first thought was that a fif had taken my bait and wrapped me up in the vegetation.  I assumed I was pulling at a plant that was slowly being pulled out of the silt. Then it all kicked off again. This was no plant, this was a fish - and for me, a big fish!

I landed it!
I played the fish for what seemed an eternity, bit was probably no more then five minutes. As it got closer I could see I had hooked a good sized mirror carp. It gave a good fight close in, especially when it saw the net. In anticipation of catching something big on the carp rods, I had my thirty-two inch met screwed to a good rigid six foot long handle. This tamed the fish with ease and at last I could get a goo look at what I had caught.

16lb 2oz mirror. The largest fish I have caught - so far
The fish tuned out to be a 16lb 2oz mirror carp. A personal best for me and a real treat at the end of what had been a slow day. This time I can claim my first double figure fish caught and landed by me, without the aid of Andy and his boat, see HERE.

In the end we had a good day and to be fair to Tim, he was as pleased about my catch as I was. I don't think he had seen a fish that big, close up, before. After the drama of that fish it was time to start packing up and heading for home after yet another enjoyable day by the bank with my little brother.


Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Particles, boilies and new transpot!

Pound-shop bird seed
Take a couple of bags of birdseed, soak it for twenty-four hours, bring to the boil, simmer for an hour and what you end up with is a big pan full of hot soft particles. Add a pint or two of preprepared hemp seed and the end result is a bucket full of particles ready to attract the hungry carp into your swim. Well, that is the theory.

Particles cooling down
A few weeks ago Tim and I were having a bit of fun on the back of Major's lake trying out some new wafters attempting to catch one of the bigger fish in the lake. If you have been reading this blog regularly you will know that we had a bit of a drama that day. This time we will be better prepared. This Friday we will be back on the lake and we will be having another go at getting our hooks into a decent sized fish. Feeding seems to be the key here. My plan is to lay down some particles in two areas and fish over them with boilies and PVA mesh bags of free offerings.  We haven't tried this before so we will see how it goes.

The boilies we will be using are my new Two Dog boilies. These are made in exactly the same way as my original batch of boilies using the following ingredients. 

 Two Dog boilie recipe:

  • 200g Two Dog Ground-bait
  • 100g Semolina
  • 50g Rice Flour
  • 50g Dried Skimmed Milk
  • 225g Eggs in their shells 
The method  I use to make them is detailed HERE and the recipe for Two Dog groundbait can be found HERE.

hard (ish) outer shell and soft in the middle
The plan is to fish the deeper end of The Major's lake this time. We normally only fish within easy distance from the van but on Friday we will be free to fish anywhere thanks to my latest bargain buy.

How much? are you sure?
A few weeks ago, our local Aldi store had a fishing event and had a lot of good offers. Among the interesting items was a very nice fishing barrow. Priced at a penny under £40, I was tempted but resisted the temptation. The same barrow is sold under various brands and currently it is being advertised by one of the big mail-order companies 25% off RRP at £75 all but a penny.

While in the store the other day, they had one of these barrows in a tatty box with the price slashed to £27.99. They have not got it any more! I could not turn it down at that price so it came home with me. It just goes to show, it is worth waiting to see if they reduce the price of such items, as they often do once they have sold the bulk of the stock.

We will be trying it out on Friday as it will make it easier for us to access other parts of the fishery easier that do not have parking close to the swim.


Thursday, 22 September 2016

There comes a time...

All my life I have been confident of my abilities. When it came to painting the stonework on the front of our Victorian terraced house, I was my usual blasé self. I can do that. Twenty years ago I could have done it without even thinking about it. I know there will be people reading this, older than me, who are more than happy climbing ladders and would be more than capable of doing the job. For me, I have had to come to terms with a couple of things have changed. First, my body is now not used to the physical effort required. For me it is also more a case of confidence, or should that be lack of it. Also, standing on a ladder (or tower) at height is something I have never been that happy about but now, I have lost confidence in my knees. This is hard to admit to myself but I find I am terrified of not being able to save myself if I lost my balance. Time to call it a day and go fishing.
This reality hit me on Wednesday morning and with no thought of fishing for couple of weeks, I had not formulated a plan, I just decided I was going. Having no set place for anything at the moment as the house is in the process of being cleared, ready for our impending move to the coast, I had to gather what gear I wanted from all corners of our rambling old abode.

My first thought was to put into practise what I had learnt from my day with Neil at Monk Lakes a fortnight ago. These days my seat-box is fully stocked and ready to go and there are usually a couple of rods in the rod-ready bag, so there was not much to find other than the usual bits and pieces such as bait and other sundry items. Apart from the pole fishing, I also had a couple of other things I wanted to try in passing. I was off to Beaver.

A feast of F1s from the lake today
Next month is the last of the friendly matches at the fishery, for this year, if the same schedule as last year applies this. I want to decide on tactics for this match, hopefully I will draw a decent peg this time! My pole fishing is not really up to the pressures of match fishing but I decided that today I would pitch pole against rod and line and see how I got on. I also wanted to try out my minimal box set up and try and speed up my make-ready time.

I was on the bank just after 07:00 and the first job was to level the box. Lots of people laugh at me for messing around with my little scaffolder's spirit level getting just right, but I don't care. If I have discovered one thing it is that it is important to ensure the box and foot plate are level. I am going to be sitting on the thing for over 11 hours on a day's pleasure fishing so spending ten minutes getting it level is important to me. I have suffered with back trouble in the past but find if the box is level I don't notice any pain at all even after long stints with the pole.

My box set up for the day, replicated here in the garden
I now use a minimum of fittings with my seat-box and tend to customise it for the task in hand. Today I wanted a couple of side trays, one for bait and another set slightly lower to hold things like glasses and hook length boxes. Over this I mounted a long roost that also doubles up as a support for my landing net.

Landing net sits on the roost supports nicely
Support for the other roost bar is provided by a tripod that can be positioned anywhere that is convenient. I also fitted a small bowl loop to the back right-hand leg to hold my groundbait bowl. This I use for storing the now legendary Two Dog Groundbait to be used as a feeder mix.

The bowl can be swung out of the way when pole fishing as the the photograph above
This works really well as I can swing the bowl out of the way behind me while fishing the pole. On the front right-hand leg of the platform sits my feeder arm and a long, double ripple bar onto which I fitted a tulip clip and a  small 'V' roller. These two fittings get used for all sorts of things like holding my rod while I am messing with the end tackle or filling the feeder. It is much easier to quickly support a feeder rod by dropping it into the 'V' roller than trying to balance it on a small butt rest, which is what I used to do. I find myself using it for all sorts of other things too, from hanging my camera on to somewhere to put my spectacles when I need to put them down in a hurry. On this pleasure trip, there is no need to provide anywhere to support keep nets so the accessory bar, that is normally mounted across the front legs, is not required.

I have now kitted out the box with most of what I need, and probably a lot I don't. I can guarantee the thing I leave behind will be just right the right gizmo to solve a particular problem. No worries with the small stuff this time, but...

When I  bought my cheap pole at the beginning of the year, I fitted one of the top kits with a Preston cupping kit I had to hand. This had been used on my original cheap tele-pole to feed the margins. Now that pole has been elasticated the cups were available to use with my pole. This was not a problem until I got my second pole that came with a Maver cupping kit fitted. Today I had my second pole with me. Guess which cups I had. Okay, not the end of the world but a few words, I can't type here, were muttered whilst discussing it with the maggots, the only other living thing in the van.

My aim was to get some pole time in and see just how efficient at catching and landing fish I could be. I chose a couple of lines. One straight out in front of me in open water about nine meters out, which is a comfortable length to work with for me at the moment. I also had a second line, that was about eleven meters to my left, up close and personal to a patch of lilly pads. I was also intending to fish the margins using just the top kit plus one, maybe.

I set about feeding and fishing the line in front of me, a few grains of corn and a single corn on the hook. Nothing. I was fishing at dead depth, I was aligned with a tree in the opposite bank and I was shipping out to the same distance every time.  I checked the depth a couple of times just to make sure it was right and still nothing, not even a twitch. After about half an hour of messing around with different baits and feed (meat,maggots pellets etc) I decided to go back to corn and fish an inch or so over depth. I shipped out with three corn kernels in the toss-pot and a single corn on the hook. No sooner had the float settled than it was pulled under, I lifted into the bite and it was fish-on. This turned out to be a small skimmer. Three or four skimmers later and the F1s and other carp must have seen the commotion and decided to join in. I was catching lots of nice F1's but it takes me a lot longer to land them than I can with rod and line, at least for the time being with my limited experience of pole fishing. I did take the opportunity to refine my catapult work while using the pole. I have a nice small Drennan catapult that is perfect for the job. I am slowly getting better at it, most of the feed now lands in my swim! I am sure speed will come with practise but for now I do not feel confident about using the pole in the next match, which will take place on this lake.

F1's jut keep coming
After targeting the F1's, I tried fishing at the same over-depth as I had been but now with maggot and started catching lots of small silvers including a couple of my favourite fish, the gudgeon Coincidently I caught two one after the other. By this time I was ready to try my lilly pad line. I added the extra sections to the pole, repositioned the rollers and set about plumbing up. I set the depth to an inch or so over depth as I had previously. I had been feeding this spot with a few grains of corn every fifteen to twenty minutes throughout the morning (when I remembered). First drop of a baited hook and within seconds I had hooked something the size of Moby-Dick. Well, it felt like that but as there are no big fish in this particular lake, I was getting a bit over excited. The pole was now showing that is was able to bend and just as I was thinking about what to do next, it straightened and the fish was gone. On inspection the hook length had broken just above the hook. As this was a sudden and clean break (no curly bits as if the knot holding the hook had failed) I can only assume the line had snagged something, what I am not sure, or it had been damaged previously.

A few more fish and I was landing them with little problem, just not as fast as I can with the feeder. As this was a pleasure session I was not too worried about this and continued catching fish for a while until it felt like a good time to take a break and have some lunch. I do like sitting there with a cup of coffee and some nice fresh sandwiches just watching the world go by. Next time I might well bring my seat too - it is much more comfortable for relaxing in... Hmmmm, maybe not, I might end up dozing off.

After lunch I fished for a bit with the pole before getting on to the feeder. For a good while I have been using 11ft feeder rods. These are far too powerful for small waters like this. Yes, they can be used here but I have had one of these 'light-bulb moments' and realised what everybody else knows. It is much easier to be far more accurate, at short distances, with a shorter rod than it is using a longer, over gunned, one. This time I used my 9ft feeder (picker) rod with a 30g flat backed method feeder. Fishing in open water, about twenty meters out, I found I could cast very accurately. By using a tree on the opposite bank as a marker, and locking my arm across my body in the same place every time before the line hits the clip, I was landing in the same spot on virtually every cast, a first for me. This seemed to make a difference. I was landing fish on every cast I could have made a good weight if I was counting but the action was fast and furious and did not seem to slow down. By now I had proved to myself that I should really go for the feeder for match fishing next time. I will continue to hone my pole technique, but I have a lot to learn still and I am far more confident on the feeder.

just under here
Whilst all this catching was going on I noticed a few fish had been stirring up the bottom right under my feet, very close in. I filled a feeder and dropped it in complete with a lump of meat on the hair. BANG! SNAP! no sooner had I dropped the feeder in and the hookbait had freed itself from the groundbait, the fish had taken it and headed for open water like a rocket. I realised that there could have only been a few inches of line between the rod tip and the fish. This plus the fact that the drag was set as it would be normally, reasonably tight, I had no chance of controlling the fish. I tried again, this time with the drag slackened off. Same thing but this time the line paid out allowing the fish to bolt off. I gently tightened the drag and landed what turned out to be a nice small mirror carp.

Gotcha! A nice little mirror carp for a change
So far I had achieved my goals for the day with one thing left to try; the so-called simple art of touch ledgering. This has to be one of the simplest techniques there is. A hook is tied directly to the main line and baited. The idea is the bait is cast out and the line is either run over the index finger of the right hand (I am right handed) or held lightly between finger and thumb of the left hand.

I tried some 'pork pie' paste, as hook bait, that I found in the freezer. I had been using it to make Frylies at the end of last year. I wrapped a lump around the hook and flattened it out to make a reasonably large lump around a No.12 hook. I tried it in the margins with no success. I could feel nothing on the line. I tried making the lump of paste bigger and smaller but nothing seemed to be interested in my offering. I then made an underarm cast out of just a few meters and I could see the bait start to make its decent to the bottom, just as the line was tightening the bait was taken and a reasonable size F1 became the first 'victim' of my journey into touch ledgering. I did catch a few fish using this method but it was more by luck than skill. I could not feel anything on the line until the take. I will need to refine this further...

Salami stick bait
In the mould
Covered with Two Dog mix
feeder pushed into mould
Ready for launch!
Back on the feeder for the last couple of hours gave me the chance to try out a few different hook baits. At Monk Lakes a couple of weeks ago, I tried some stick salami. A supermarket own-brand version of Peperoni sticks. These I punched and hair rigged in a similar fashion to my normal hook bait; Plumrose Bacon Grill. I had very little success with it at Monk Lakes and gave up using it. Today I tried it again. This time I ripped the small dumbbell-shaped pieces, the punching process had made, in half. This produces a bait with a flat base and a rough top. I filled the feeder with groundbait over the hook and bait, making it visible and on the top of the groundbait when released from the mould.  With a single fill of groundbait the hook bait would come away from the feeder almost immediately the feeder hit the water (see picture sequence above).  Within seconds I was playing a fish. I thought at first this must have been a fluke. I tried it again and again with a take every time. Whatever is in this salami stuff these F1s are loving it.

Mmmm, salami!
I had a brilliant day at the lake. Time passed very quickly and I had learnt a lot. One thing that was not so good was my experimental securing method I was trailing to hold the Push Stops on the rig by melting a blob on the end of the hair. My thinking had been that the bait is not going to be under any strain from the fish so the securing to the hair it did not need to be overly resilient. What I had not taken into account was the strain put on it by the fish thrashing around in the landing net. This was causing the stop to snap the blob free from the hair and result in losing it along with the bait. I will now be cutting the hairs from the couple of dozen hooklengths I have left  unused, that were done this way, and retying the stops on some new lengths. I will use the hairless lengths for directly hooked baits.

Being the autumn equinox, the light was starting to go and the temperature was on a downward trajectory, a sign that summer was over and the nights would start to close in from now on It was time to go home, totally satisfied with my day.


Saturday, 17 September 2016

Time for touchy knots and sinking tools

Saturday morning and it has been over a week since I bothered any fish, live ones that is. I did get to flake the cod for our fisherman's pie last night.

A typical radio controlled wall clock
As I sit here watching the world slowly emerge from the dark, the only sound is that of the clock ticking away the seconds as all modern digital clocks do. Taking it's time signal from the atomic clock at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) in Teddington the time signal is transmitted to the whole of the UK from Cumbria. The atomic clock is so accurate that it is claimed it would lose or gain less than a second in some 138 million years. Fascinating modern technology being of use to everybody and available for very little money. A wall clock capable of receiving the signal can be bought for as little as ten or eleven pounds.

What a contrast to our simple hobby. It is so easy to spend lots of money on all sorts of tackle and to dial into the latest 'must-have' piece of kit. I am no different to a lot of anglers, keen to own and try the latest gizmo, well some of them. But, to quote a football phrase "at the end of the day" it all boils down to getting a fish to take a bait, be hooked and landed. We all have hundreds (if not thousands, but don't tell the wife) of pounds worth of gear. Some of it is essential, like hooks, line and a camouflage hat, but most of it is obviously there just for show. It is used to intimidate a fellow match angler or to make it look as if you really do know what you are doing.

Why am I sounding so scathing of our beloved tackle? Well, This week I was watching a video about fishing with one of those novelty pen rods that are sold in vast numbers on eBay. I have always thought of these things as gimmicks designed for wives and children to buy dad on Fathers Day. That may be the case and I am sure that most of them never see the bank-side. On the video, this myth was dispelled by the presenters landing several good sized fish. Fascinating as that was it was the tackle that intrigued me, or should I say the lack of it. They were touch ledgering.

If like me you are relatively new to fishing, you may not have understood this term either. I have heard the term being used before but I had not understood exactly what it meant. It is not talked about too much in the angling press and the cynic in me might think that is because it is not something that will sell tackle. It is so simple and apparently effective that I have to give it a go.

The video mentioned it in passing, assuming everybody would know what 'touch ledgering' was. Maybe most people watching it did, but I was confused. All that appeared to be happening was that the main line was tied to a hook. The hook was baited and dropped (not cast) into the margin to be taken by a big fish. I though I had missed something but after posting the question on the Maggot Drowning forum  I discovered that it was really that simple. The bait is cast and the line is held between the finger and thumb of the right hand, or what ever is comfortable, and the slightest movement can be detected. It is said to be much more sensitive than quiver tipping. The other advice is always hold on to the rod as bites can be sudden and  furious.

I have yet to try this but judging by the feedback on the forum it is most rewarding and very easy. I am now wondering if all that tackle is the result of very successful marketing and appealing to the desire to own nice things. This is an extreme case of keeping it simple and I can't wait to give it a go, but first I have to master the art of tying a hook to the main line. Although I could use a hooklength that is sort of stepping up a gear and I want to keep this simple and that means tying the hook directly to the main line or 'freelining' as it is apparently called.

Hook tying

I have now been fishing for a couple of years, and although I tie all my own hooklengths, I have not used many knots and never tied a hook directly to the line. It is all these basic skills that I have missed out on by not fishing as a kid. I suspect that most seasoned anglers reading this may find it strange that something so basic has passed me by. I have managed to get by with a handful of simple knots. My spade hooks are tied  using a hook tyer and my eyed hooks have all been tied using the knotless knot. I now needed a knot to tie the hook directly to the line and the most obvious choice is the Grinner or Uni-knot.

My little yellow knot book
Referring to my little yellow book of knots, I set about practising the knot with some 0.22 (5lb) monofilament line and a Guru MWG size 12 hook. It looks so simple in the book, and I am sure it is, but the first few attempts just look a mess. After several attempts without a neat result I refereed to the internet and found several videos showing how simple it really is. This is where the power of video really pays off, compared to pictures and drawings in a book. It shows the whole process and even if the narrator does not explain everything the moving pictures tell the whole story, provided the tyer keeps his (or her) hands out of the way. I found looking at several videos of people tying the same knot showed that there are more than one ways to do it and it is a case of finding the method that suits.

A much enlarged picture of my best attempt at a four-turn uni-knot. I suspect they will get better in time.
click on image to enlarge even further!


How many times have you dropped something and it has bounced straight into the water? I know I have a few times and it is such a relief to discover the said item floats. Disgorgers are a prime candidate for being dropped in the drink. This week I was disappointed to discover that my new, expensive, Guru disgorgers sink. I, like most of us, have amassed a huge supply of disgorgers from give-aways, and in my case, a couple of bulk lots of used tackle. Throwing them all in a bowl of water revealed that about half of them sunk. Even more surprising was that it was the cheaper unbranded ones that tend to float. 

The two Guru 'slammo' style disgorgers
 I bought the Guru disgorgers because they are of the 'slammo' design that I like. the Guru versions are round in cross section and collect the hook very well, masking the point and enabling it to be withdrawn easily without catching the inside of the fish's mouth or lips on the way out. I am still happy with them but it is a mistake not to make them buoyant. They do have a hole in the handle to attach a piece of line or a lanyard, although I am not keen on this option. I am surprised as I do like a lot of the stuff made by Guru. I know I could add something to them to make them float but that would detract from the ergonomics of the design which is nice to use.   


Thursday, 8 September 2016

Fishing with Neil...

After Wednesday's debacle, A trip to Monk Lakes to meet with fellow member of the Maggot Drowning Forum, Neil, turned out to be a the perfect answer to a lack of bank time. Neil is due to fish a couple of matches at Monk Lakes tomorrow and Saturday and offered to drive down on today and meet me at the venue.
I was there in plenty of time to wait for the gate to open at 07:00. No oversleeping today. I have only fished at Monk Lakes once before at that was on the huge Bridges lake. Like last time I was a few cars back from the gate and as I waited the queue grew and grew. This place is very popular, and like last time I was here, two of the four match lakes were booked out. Neil had said he would like to fish a match lake so I planned to meet him on whichever one I could get on.

The view from my chosen peg, No.155
Of the four match lakes, two of the newer ones were being used. This suited me as I did not fancy the rather functional rectangular lakes. I know this is what the match fisherman crave, but I prefer something that has at least a nod to a natural lake. Lake number 4 is a little less formal and has 29 pegs. For those of you who know the venue, I picked peg 155 after a stroll around the lake. I was looking for somewhere for the two of us to fish within striking distance of each other. Peg 154 was just the other side of a bush. The lake has a gravel road that circumnavigates the perimeter of the fenced area allowing easy access to the pegs. Don't be put off by the literature and website that says that cars can only be used on the fishery for loading and unloading of tackle. Both times I have been there, I was told that I could park at the pegs the only stipulation was to keep all four wheels on the road. Today this rule must have been 'bent' somewhat as there were dozens of match anglers vans parked on the grass behind me.

The calm flat water started to ripple by mid morning. As you can see, this place is very popular.
The peg, like most of them here, is a strong wooden platform built on a sturdy steel frame. This is the first time I have fished from a platform and was a bit of an eye opener for me. Really nice to set my box up on something flat and rigid, however, I must remember that it is not a great idea to step off the platform to the side as what appeared solid ground was actually some flattened reeds covering the edge of the water. It is also not advisable to drop anything as it either slides off the deck into the water or gets stuck between the cracks in the boards. I discovered a new use for my disgorgers.

Feeder fishing using a different technique for me with the rod pointing at the feeder - worked fine
I set up my box and decided to try a spot of feeder fishing. The lake is fairly small and it is an easy chuck to the island. My 9ft 'Picker' rod seemed to be the perfect choice for this. Casting short distances accurately is much easier with a shorter rod, my success rate of hitting the spot once I had established the distance and clipped up, was better then 90%. for me that is good and as time goes on it does seem to be getting better.

Lots of small Mirrors in this lake
A few casts of the feeder loaded with the infamous Two Dog got the carp interested and I was landing several small mirror carp. Those little fellows really fight hard for the size of them. I continued to fish at distance, on what was a very calm flat water, until the bites dried up. I had been watching the fish just under the surface for a while and feeding a few pellets every now and again. Time to try the pellet waggler. The feed pellets were not creating much, if any, interest and no amount of changing depth seemed to encourage any interest whatsoever. Just as I was about to give up, something showed an interest. Hello little skimmer!

You're not a carp!
I tired of trying to catch carp on the pellet waggler and decided to see if there were any silvers to be had. The cheap and cheerful 'Hippo' got is regular outing and as usual did not fail to perform. fishing just over depth using maggot as feed and on the hook, I was swinging to hand little roach one after the other. none of them very big but good fun all the same.

By now it was getting on for 10 o'clock and just as I was thinking that the match must be starting soon on the other lakes, the Klaxon (or more likely an air horn) sounded and there was a flurry of simultaneous activity on the lake next door. There had been a pump running all morning that was gushing water into the corner of the lake. It was an ambient noise that I had not really noticed until it suddenly stopped. This combined with the lack of chatter as the match started, plunged the lake into a sudden silence that was very strange for a few minutes. Time for a munch while I packed away the Hippo and moved up a gear to my 9.5m Maver pole. There is nothing nicer than sitting on my box, surveying my surroundings eating a nice fresh sandwich. The small cheap Maver pole is very portable and using only the top kit and a couple of sections is great for close in fishing. No need to mess about with rollers and lots of gear, just a ripple bar to rest the unused sections and spare top kit on. I just had time to land a few more skimmers when the phone rang and it was Neil. He had arrived and was on his way to the lake.

Say hello to Neil...
I do like to meet fellow anglers I have conversed with over the internet. Our internet persona can give a very different impression of ourselves compared with the person. It is like listening to the radio and constructing an image of the person talking, here the voice gives a few more clues to the person but how many times do you get to see someone that you have heard and get a surprise when you get to see the person.

Getting an impression of a person from text only can be even more difficult. In this case, Neil has posted a picture of himself on his blog and, like me, is a fairly prolific poster. This helps a lot and when he arrived he turned out to be exactly what I had imagined, a very warm and friendly fellow angler. We were chatting straight away and it was obvious that we were going to get along. I helped Neil get his gear to the peg and he gave me a brolly that a fellow Maggot Drowner had given him to pass on to me after her very generous offer.

Neil has been fishing a bit longer than me, thirty eight years longer in fact. The one thing you can't accuse Neil of is being a 'tackle tart'. He proves the fact that you can catch fish with a minimum of kit and bait if you know what you are doing. He sat down and started catching fish at a much faster rate than I had been achieving. With this, I decided that I had to see where his fishing differed from my own. I shipped my pole in, removed the bait and wondered around the bush to Neil's peg. The first thing you notice about Neil's technique is the speed at which he does everything. Confidence in what he is doing, combined with a well tested routine, leads to an efficient method that catches fish.

We discussed lots of things and I went back to my peg to try out some of the tips I had just picked up. These included fixing back-leads to the line above the float. This will sink the line and means the float is less vulnerable to being victim to a breeze. A small No.11 shot is fitted to the line, just about level with the top of the whisker.  This single shot on its own is not heavy enough to break the surface tension as well as overcome the stiffness of the monofilament line. A heavier No.8 shot is fitted close to the pole tip. The heavier shot will sink the line and the smaller shot. Once the line has sunk the pole is raised to lift the heavier shot out of the water leaving the lighter shot and line sunk. A simple thing that maybe everybody else knows but I had missed. The other thing I was obviously doing wrong was to have too much line above the float.

I went back to my peg and modified my rig. I added a small clip on feeder cup to the end of the pole and started fishing. A few grains of corn in the cup plus a few pellets and the odd maggot topped off with a small amount of Two Dog ground bait, accompanied a single sweetcorn kernel on the hook. Feed, reposition the float into the feed area and let the bait sink. Lift a few inches and bang! The elastic was in the water and it was fish on. I repeated this several times and and my catch rate was improved no end. Nowhere near as efficient as Neil, but a lot better than it had been.

After a short break for lunch and another natter, Neil went back to his peg and I ended up spending the afternoon picking his brains and watching him fish, which he was more than happy for me to do. I learnt a lot today, and met yet another fellow angler. There is nothing like spending a day with someone who can already do what I am trying to do. The hands-on help and advice I received today has helped a lot, just like all the other days I have been out with other more experienced anglers.

If you are reading this as a beginner, try and find someone with experience to show you how to fish. For me it is much easier to have someone there telling you what you are doing wrong than just reading books and watching videos. My thanks go to Neil for a most enjoyable day and putting up with my endless questions.


Wednesday, 7 September 2016

How did that happen?

Normally I am up and about before most. A lay in for me is 07:00, I just don't need that much sleep, five or six hours a night is usually enough for me. On match days a few hours less is not a problem, so today  when I was meant to be up by 05:00, imagine my surprise when I looked at the clock and it said 06:55... Grown... yawn... WHAT!

No way would I even get to Beaver before the match started at this time of day, let alone get set up. I sent an e-mail with my apologies and kicked myself for missing what was going to be the match I was going to win, you know, the one that got away. Never mind, my absence gave the others a chance.

There is always October.