Friday, 11 November 2016

I caught a fish!

Yep, I caught a fish, just one, all day!

I had decided to go fishing with a minimum of gear to see how I would get on. I knew it was not going to be easy but I had no idea that fishing one pond, using one rod would result in one fish. The day started well, no hassle, lots of time to load the van with just a few bits. I even had time for breakfast, that's a first.

My one and only fish of the day
It was only as I got on to the Sidcup Bypass I had that thought - Wallet - A quick fumble of the pockets, nothing. Okay, calm down... I pulled into a slip road and had a rummage in my bag. Still nothing. Hmmm... This is a little inconvenient, I thought to myself, while filling the cab with a few choice words and attempting to reconfigure the steering wheel. Nothing for it I will have to go back home as I must have left the blooming thing behind. The trouble with that is, I am on a duel carriageway and the bunch of face-less 'can't leave anything alone' mob have long since closed all the gaps in the central reservation so I will have to wait until I can U-turn the van at the next set of lights. It is a good job my rear wheel drive Transit has a spectacular steering lock on it for a big van.

Back at home and guess what? Still no wallet. I went back out to the van and conducted a a finger tip search of the cab and my shoulder bag. The relief of finding the wallet, inside the lining of my bag, was somewhat cancelled out by the complete waste of a good three quarters of an hour of my life, let alone the fuel I had used on an unplanned sightseeing tour of South East London in the dark. Have you seen the price of diesel lately?

I arrived at the fishery about fifteen minutes after the gate opened, that wasn't too bad. A quick discussion on the state of the world, post the US election, with Andy in the office was followed by a far more important matter; what bait to use. I topped up my merger selection of hook-bait with a tub of worms and set off for the far end of the fishery.

Now that's what you call 'still' water
I have spent several short sessions on Eden Pond over the past couple of years, usually just the first few hours of the day. Today I had decided to spend the whole day there. I set up on the north bank of the pond. Eden Pond is small and shallow with lots of features. The pond also boasts a good stock of perch. I figured that if I fished close to the features, with worm on the hook, I might tempt one out, but it was not to be. Personally, I think the owners forgot to let the fish out this morning...

The lake is surrounded by trees and bushes that gives it its secluded appeal. The trouble is it makes it harder to cast if the undergrowth is not going to claim the end tackle. Today I ended up losing a couple of Drennan float bodies, that parted from their weights on the cast, and landed up in the pond. As luck would have it, I managed to recover both of them during the day, as they drifted back into netting range. I also ended up with an extra float that just appeared on the surface as I was taking in the view. That makes a change, in the early days I was constantly making 'offerings' to the tree Gods.

Casting as close as I dare to the dead reeds made it hard to determine what was what
As the day went on and the sun moved around, visibility became a real problem. The glare off the water made it impossible to see the float tip in open water, no matter what colour it was. Close to the features the reflections also made it hard to make out what was what. Is that my float tip or a piece of dead reed in the red circle?

With just one fish on the bank all day, some may think the day was a disaster. I have had better days but I did enjoy myself. Although the sunny day was not good for fishing, I was able to sit there, munch my way through a pork pie and a couple of sandwiches, while drinking my flask of coffee in peace.

The pipe...
As with all the lakes at Beaver, vehicle access is provided by good, well maintained hard surface tracks. As you can see, I can get the van right down to the lake. To get to the lake there is a strange feature that has to be passed under. You can see it passing through the trees and reflected in the pond. I can only assume it is a sewer pipe, crossing the slight depression that the lakes at Beaver are formed in. The land to the north and south of this spot is higher and a look at Google Maps shows the pipe emerging and re-entering farmland either side of the lake. Luckily there is a spot just out of view in this picture, where the track passes under it, that affords enough clearance to drive the van under.

I think my one rod approach limited my options too much and it is a case of hitting a happy medium between taking too much and too little gear. This would have been a perfect pole session as most of the features could be within pole reach from a selection of pegs. I also think a swim-feeder might have paid off. There is always another day.

Ralph.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

November sunshine

Flat-calm and full sun made for a pleasant day and few fish
This year the friendly matches at Beaver Fishery have extended into November and there is talk of a December match too, weather permitting. Today I was at Beaver Fishery competing in the November friendly. I have a theory that my Two Dog groundbait, I use on the feeder, may be too bright for this time of year, fish may be put off feeding over it as they will be silhouetted against it, as the water clears, making them an easy target for attack. I have been experimenting with coloured dyes in various groundbait mixes and come up with something I think might work; green Surf 'n' Turf.

The day started with a van covered in dew, thankfully not frozen, and a full tank of diesel meant there was no need to stop. The first half a mile was spent trying not to breath for fear of misting up the screen while the demisting fan was struggling to keep up. It never fails to surprise me just how many vehicles, of all types, are on the south circular at that time of the morning. The traffic is being 'channelled' along the main route by the introduction of so-called traffic calming measures. The traffic congestion on the south circular has undoubtedly become worse, over the past few years, as my local council (Lewisham) has introduced speed bumps on every road they own in the entire borough. Recently all the roads in the borough, including fairly busy main roads, have had a mandatory 20mph speed limit applied. It is ridiculous as there are short sections of road that cross the borough's borders at one end and join a Highways Department owned road at the other, that have very short sections where a 20 mph speed limit has been applied. Now, call me a cynic, but how long is it going to be until they apply speed cameras to those sections?

Local road rant over, the rest of the journey was reasonably clear. A lot of traffic on the southern section of the M25 was relieved by the mile long slip-road to the A22. I arrived at Beaver to be the first in the queue and observe the new winter gate times posted on the gate and sign; 6 PM. No sign of the cat, it must be cold. I bet he is sitting on top of the portable gas fire in the office, sensible cat.

Winter is here
Peg 14. That's good. This is the peg that has produced a few winners this year including the victor last month. Feeder fishing is the name of the game here for me. I do have my small pole/whip with me, that I call 'Hippo' see HERE for an explanation, if you are at all interested! The plan is to build up a couple of spots of my new green coloured groundbait and fish over that. Dead maggot on the hook, a 30g feeder and a short hooklink with No.16 hook.

At the all in, nobody was catching immediately. After five minutes or so, I saw a landing net being deployed on the opposite bank. Just as I was thinking "Here we go again" the rod tip slammed around and I had a fish on. Nice F1 as I had expected. For the first hour or so I caught several fish and I was starting to think that maybe this was going to be my day. That was just wishful thinking. By 11 AM the fishing had dried up completely at our end of the lake. It was not only me, one of the better anglers and lake record holder, who was in the peg I had last time, had nothing.

I was happy to come 7th, only a few ounces behind 6th! Sorry about the poor picture, the lens on my camera misted up in the cold after being in my pocket
As the day went on, it was obvious that the fish were on the other side of the lake as all we could see was landing nets making the occasional visit to the water. It was obvious that the weights were going to be low, and so they were. I ended up with 11lb 4oz that gave me 7th place. It was not a good day for photographs as the sun was right in my face all day. This was not a bad thing as for those of us on this side of the bank it was nice and warm, the guys opposite looked frozen in the shade, but that is where the fish were most of the day and all three winning pegs came from there. Proving beyond doubt that I am not really a serious match fisherman, I was happy to have drawn my peg! As I was a bit short on pictures, here is the weigh-in photograph of me and my fish. I even caught a skimmer and a tiny perch that seems to be camera-shy.

A small bag of very lively fish
With fifteen minutes to go, I caught one last decent sized F1 as I was collecting my gear together. I had cast out a feeder, hooked my rod over the small 'V' roller mounted on the front leg of my box, and was just about to dismantle a rod when the drag started giving line at a rate. I picked up the rod and landed one of the best fish of the day. without it, I could have been several places lower in the table. On a day like today, a few fish can make a huge difference.

I am sure the dark green groundbait mix gave me an edge and the choice of hook-bailt was also a good move. I will try the green Surf 'n' Turf feeder mix, over the cooler months, and see how it performs.

Ralph.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Mixin' it...

Over the past couple of years I have been experimenting with groundbait to use as a feeder mix when using the flat-backed method feeder. By far the most successful of these has been my Two Dog groundbait. Successful as it is, it has a couple of things about it's making and storage that can cause problems.

First the bread crumb. I have been drying my own crumb from cheap supermarket cut loaves. This involves drying and then processing it to a fine crumb. All this is okay when making smaller quantities but when each loaf, after drying will only render about 600g of dry crumb the task becomes impractical when making larger quantities.

The other problem is storage. As the 'second dog' ingredient is liquidised hot dog sausages, and the liquid they are tinned in, the finished mix has to be frozen if it is to be stored for any more than a few days. It is impractical in the domestic environment to store more than a few bags in the freezer. This is not so bad if you have a dedicated fishing bait freezer but even then it seems a bit pointless as the expense of running a bait freezer for groundbait starts to erode any economy of scale that has been achieved by making the stuff in bulk or just adds a running cost to the venture.

After spending many hours drying my own bread, I eventually decided to look around for a supply of ready dried white crumb. I eventually found a supplier on eBay that could supply 20kg bags of either white or brown crumb at a reasonable (£22.49) price including delivery. When it arrived it was perfect; bone dry and very fine with no lumps. But me being a bit thick, It had not dawned on me that a 20kg bag of dry breadcrumb weighs the same as a 20kg bag of sand and is just as awkward to move around!

To prove that I am not really all that thick, I worked out that I could make up all the dry components for my ground baits in bulk and add the 'wet' stuff prior to using it. With this in mind we set about making six times the usual amount and bagging it up in measured quantities ready for the addition of one tin of minced hot dog sausages.

What we ended up with nominally 2kg bags made up of 800g of bread crumb, 800g Rich Tea biscuits, 350g of  ground Wagg chicken and vegetable flavoured dog biscuits and 2½g of finely ground black pepper added to 50g of turmeric powder. These bags, I suppose, could be referred to as one dog...  The bags can now be stored almost indefinitely in a cool dry, rodent free place. All we have to do now is find such a place.

The difference in cost works out to be about 10p per 800g bag of finished groundbait mix. For all the effort and time it saves, it is a price I am prepared to pay for the convenience. It was okay when I was making the stuff in small quantities but now I make it for Tim (the 'other bloke' in this story as well as being my brother) and a few mates it makes sense to go down this route.

With the Two Dog sorted, I turned my attention to my other favoured mix; Surf 'n' Turf. As the Two Dog mix tends to target F1s and other carp, Surf 'n' Turf seems to target the skimmers, bream and tench. This is only really a bias towards those species as both will catch heavily. The bias can be increased by the choice of hook bait, but that is another story.

Surf 'n' Turf contains a few more ingredients than my other recipes but the dry stuff can be mixed and stored in bulk in pre-mixed bags as with the Two Dog. Again we end up with 2kg bags containing 1kg of bread crumb, 250g of fish meal (or ground pellet), ground 250g cat biscuit and 500g Vitalin.

The wet ingredients can be mixed in advance in sufficient quantities to add to the dry mix either in advance, and kept in a fridge, or made up the day before use and added to the dry mix.

Colour


The bright yellow of the Two Dog groundbait is fine in the summer but as the water clears, I believe the fish can be put off from feeding over it as they become silhouetted against the light colour which makes them easier to spot by predators. The Surf 'n' turf is not so bright and it's brown colour is less of a problem but it is still a bit on the light side.

I have tried liquid food dye in the past without much success. I did find a red powdered food dye that is extremely good that I used in my Red Dog recipe and found it worked well with corn, turning it bright red. Initially I tried to dye the Surf 'n' Turf green but that did not work out at the time.

Recently I have been experimenting with some Sensas purpose made dye. This is a powder and comes in tubs of 100g. It varies in price but if your local tackle shop stocks it it can be purchased for £4 or £5 a tub, through the post it seems to be around £7.00 or more by the time it has had delivery factored in. As it requires about 20g per kilo to be effective, it can be an expensive option.

As the money was racking up, it seemed like it would be worth experimenting with liquid dye again but this time up the 'dosage' A small bottle of food dye is around 60p. I decided to add a whole bottle to one of my 800g bags of two dog. It tinted it green. I added another bottle. Now I am at a comparable cost to adding the Sensas dye. The result was still disappointing. I then added a level tablespoon of the Sensas dye to 800g of the bright yellow Two Dog groundbait and got a mid green. Better, but still not what I was looking for.

As we have also been making up a good stock of Surf 'n' Turf, I decided to try a batch of that too. By the time the wet ingredients are adsorbed by the dry Surf 'n' Turf mix, we ended up with just over 2700g of mix, giving three bags of just over 900g each. one of the bags was tipped into a bowl and one level tablespoon of dye was added. This time the green was darker as the base colour of the mix is a sort of fawn colour. Still not quit as dark as I had hoped, but dark enough to give it a trial.

I think my next move will be to try the black dye.  As most black pigments are in fact a very dark green, maybe mixed with Two Dog, which is bright yellow, I may end up with the dark green I am trying to replicate. That will be for another time, I will see how this works out and take it from there.

Ralph.

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.

Ralph.

Friday, 30 September 2016

They are getting bigger!

What started out to be a very slow day got worse when 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.

My new barrow soon became overloaded
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 good 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.

Ralph.

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.

Ralph.

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.

Ralph.