Sunday, 5 November 2017

Thoughts turn to predator fishing... Part 3

By the middle of last month, I had been fighting off a bug that had really got the better of me. While I was feeling too rough to actually go fishing, it gave me a chance to do some armchair research into predator fishing. By now I had planned to have actually been out on the bank and giving it a go. That has not happened yet as here I am on Guy Fawkes night still writing about the thought of it!

There is a lot of useful information in here
I have yet to rid myself of this bug completely. It has left me feeling lethargic (more than usual, that is!) and nursing a persistent cough. The result has been no fishing for the past few weeks and not even much blogging. Today, however, I am feeling a lot better. It has been getting better all week but then on Friday I had a bit of a relapse that spoilt the weekend, but I am hoping that is the end of it. I have a good positive attitude, and I think I should be well enough to get out there later in the week.

A lot of reading has been happening. I bought a copy of the Fox Guide to Modern Pike Fishing. This is a bit of a strange book. A lot of it is written by Mike Brown, who I respect as a decent pike fisherman, but the presentation and editing of the content leave a lot to be desired. Once I had cut through all the laborious stuff, there is a lot of good basic stuff to be gleaned, even if the information is a decade old. I never did, however, work out who 'Nev' is, other than the bloke who wrote the introduction. Funnily enough, the fact that it contains nothing but Fox tackle (not surprisingly) did not detract from getting the facts through. I do feel more confident about tackling my first pike now. I do still need to get hold of a couple of tools although I now have some 30lb braid and some suitable 'circle' hooks that look enormous compared to the hooks I usually choose.

Gotcha!

In the last part of this saga, I was bemoaning my lack of success at acquiring a decently sized spoon net-head with a large open rubberised mesh. Well, silly me, I was searching for a pike net when all I had to do was look for a barbel net that, according to the description was 'suitable for pike' among other species! I have my mate John to thank for that information. He too has caught the predator bug, but unlike me has managed to get out there and have a go himself. A productive go at that, having caught a decent sized pike on his first cast. Now I have someone to discuss pike fishing with.

John's 8-6 pike. Not bad for a first cast!
The benchmark has been set, I now have to bag a pike that is bigger than 8-6. Hopefully soon.

Ralph.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Magazines, books, videos and forums...

Without a doubt, the best way to increase one's fishing skill is by practising the art, on the bank, with someone who knows how to do whatever it is you are trying to master. When this is not possible, for whatever reason, it is time to turn to reference material. In days gone by, this was supplied in either magazine or book form, supplemented by the occasional television programme.

Today we are swamped with digital media whether that be social media, in the form of interactive discussion or websites designed to inform. Very little of this material is prepared with any third-party editing or checking. Indeed, what you are reading here is just the result of me sitting here typing away and giving you my thoughts on the world of angling. I do try and write in proper English and check my spelling, but I do make mistakes, and I continually update the blog if a mistake is spotted by me or anyone else. These sort of errors are easy to correct and are (or should be) forgiven as the message is usually understood.

Social media is full of misspellings, bad grammar and often devoid of any punctuation except from the over-uses of the ellipsis (something I am guilty of...) and explanation mark! This matters not, on social media as this is no more than electronic 'Pub-talk', discussion and argument in a two-way forum, after all, this is a free and open discussion. It should be taken as such, and any validity of fact be taken at face value. It is when we find such things in the printed word it seems more worrying.

When I was first involved in publishing in the early 1970s, the old traditions were starting to change. We were still printing all our publications using the traditional letterpress process. This involved using lead type and all manner of specialist trades from compositors and block-makers to highly trained and skilled camera operators that made the film separations to produce horrifically expensive four-colour printing blocks. It was a trade and a closely guarded one at that, some would say too much so. Getting into 'the print' required a long apprenticeship and a lot of dedication. It was not long before this started to change. The newspaper industry was held in a grip by the unions and had been reluctant to modernise. This foot-dragging resulted in a powder-keg of tension that, when it did eventually release, set free a rapid and sensational change to the way things happened. The skills that had been learnt over generations were redundant within a decade or so.

Letterpress printing was replaced with the lithographic process, but the most significant changes were to be seen in the pre-press areas of design and production of printing plates. A whole section of the traditional print trade was to suffer a fatal wound with the development of digital imaging and the use of desktop publishing. In what seemed to be no time at all the entire reprographic industry became redundant. Skills such as 'colour planning' (the assembly of film and colour separations into a set of films ready to make printing plates from) once, one of the highest paid areas of pre-press production, became unnecessary. Today, I can do all the design, pre-press colour separations from the same machine I am using to produce this blog. Initially, a lot of the guys who were planning film moved over to computers bringing their understanding of the process with them. Sadly, this is not the case today as more and more of the 'old school' guys have moved on into retirement.

Without this technology advance, most of the periodicals would have gone long ago. There was a time when advertising paid for the production and magazines had to sell many tens of thousands of magazines to make a profit. Today, the cost of production is so much less, and the cover price is much higher, advertising is not so relevant or so readily secured. Periodicals can survive on just a few thousand sales. You will find that publishing houses are either small one-man-band affairs or they will have a team working on several different titles, writing material, and using fewer outside contributors. The same low cost also means that books can be published very much easier.

The upshot of all this means that, in a lot of cases, quality is compromised. I have written books, hundreds of magazine articles and been an editor of both books and magazines over the past forty-plus years. The books I wrote were sub-edited for general readability, spelling and grammar by someone else and read for the accuracy of content by at least one other who knows the subject. I would read the books several times myself, making further corrections to make it as easy to read and understand as possible. A similar exercise would be undertaken for the magazine articles. None of this happens to the words I write here and, as a consequence, no doubt you will find mistakes in this post.

Today, too many books and publications are produced on the cheap. The standard of writing, quality of images and lack of any continuity make it hard to follow, especially for a novice. As I have said before, all this can be forgiven or at least understood when it is free material put out in good faith. When bad (budget?) material is presented in hard-copy, or for download, with a price tag attached, it is not really acceptable.

What's the answer? Well, I am not really sure. As a novice, I found it really hard to get sound information. I have bought several magazines regularly over the past three years, and although initially, in my ignorance, the advice all seemed good, I eventually realised that most of the articles were blatant product placement. The books, with a few exceptions, are not much better.

At the moment I am trying to get some reliable information about predator fishing. I have not been able to get out onto the bank recently due to a significant dose of what has been designated 'man-flu', by my missus. The books and magazine I have been reading have helped and do give the information, but they take some reading in places. I am sure good books are available, but there does seem to be a lot of poorly put together publications out there making it hard to find reliable information.

Armed with the information I have managed to glean so far, I think I am ready to give predator fishing, or to be more specific, pike fishing, a go once I have secured a few more bits of tackle. With a little experience under my belt, maybe the written word I have invested in will start to make more sense. I am not at all sure that is how it should be.

Ralph.
   

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Thoughts turn to predator fishing... Part 2

It is now Wednesday, and I have spent the last few days trying to fight off a real stinker of a cold. I don't often succumb to colds and flu, but this one is playing dirty. By the time I had come around on Monday, I soon realised the book I had ordered had arrived, so between bouts of coughing, spluttering and dozing off, I have had a good flick through and read a few pages.

It looks to be an excellent guide and well worth the £2.80 it cost, including the delivery charge. For a while, a lot of these booksellers were selling books at 1p and charging £2.80 shipping. I assume the way they are charged for listing the books has changed. Either way, it is a good cheap way of building up a library of books without spending a fortune.

I was hoping the net I ordered from Northern Ireland would be here by now. You know that phrase "if it is too good to be true..."  I had heard nothing by yesterday, so I sent the supplier an e-mail asking if my net was indeed on its way. To cut a long story short, the answer was no. Apparently, I had ordered from a website that was out of date and should have been taken down. Refund on its way.

One step forward and another back. The big spoon net would have been useful for dead-baiting for larger pike on the still water I intend to fish; however, it was always going to be too big for the river in Canterbury. As I can't get hold of a big spoon net head, my thoughts are now moving to a large triangular net for use when lifting fish from above in shallow water, as is the requirement when fishing the weir pool in Canterbury.  For roving, on the river, something smaller would be useful but at the moment, everything I take a shine to seems to be out of stock. This is the trouble with the demise of the tackle shop. I really would like to go and look at what I am buying but I think I am going to be stuck with mail order. I did try my local shop but unless I wanted a carp net or a match net I was out of luck.

Hopefully, this cold will be gone soon and I can get back on the case of acquiring the last few bits and pieces I need to go and pester a few pike without harming them.

I can see that this quest still has a way to go yet...

Ralph.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Thoughts turn to predator fishing... Part 1

My fishing has not been as prolific as I would have liked it to have been lately. Even when planning to meet up with angling friends I have been forced to cancel at the last minute. No one thing has caused this hiatus in my fishing journey, but the net result (sorry about the pun) is that the colder months are here and I am still trying to get some fishing in.

For the past couple of years, those thoughts have led to dropshotting. This year I have decided to have a go at a spot of pike fishing. Nothing is simple though, as there is pike fishing and pike fishing. My first thought was to lure fish for pike, but this will mean acquiring a whole new lot of gear including rod and maybe reel, landing net, unhooking mat (roving) more tools lures - have you seen the price of some of those? And a whole lot more. I am not saying that I will not follow that path, but for now, I am planning to go dead-bait ledgering or float fishing, or both. I can use one of my carp rods and reel for this.

Yes, I will need some new tackle and the most obvious, must have is a predator landing net. That is one with a large open rubberised mesh. Fox made a super 900mm (roughly 36 inches) predator net until last year, and although an internet search for a supplier threw up lots of hits, without fail, they were all showing the net as out of stock. Eventually, probably through a fluke of my search wording, I found a seller in Northern Ireland that had stock. Being part of Great Britain, shipping via the Royal Mail from Northern Ireland costs the same as ordering it from the mainland and takes a similar amount of time to arrive.

As stated above I will be using my carp rods and reels to start with but loaded with braided main line and not monofilament. The only braided line I have used to date is the much lighter Jig Silk I use on my dropshot gear. Those are small 1500 size reels, and although the braid is expensive, for dropshotting, I don't need much, and there is no distance casting to worry about. To put some line on these much larger spools, I will have to apply a good lot of backing to the spool. This is where I need to do some research. I know I want to use braided mainline and a wire trace, but as to what weights I need, I am at a loss for now. There are so many different opinions.

On the recommendation of one of the guys on The Pikers Pit Forum I have ordered an old book published, in 1994, called An Introduction to Pike Fishing, by David Batten. Hopefully, this will answer a lot of my questions.  

In the meantime, there are still a few things to get together for handling pike safely to protect the fish and my fingers! These include a large unhooking mat, which I have already, a pair of extra long nose pliers and a pair of long wire cutters. For me, I will take a first aid kit along with clean water to wash any cuts. It has been said that pike are likely to introduce an anticoagulant into the wound, meaning it will not readily stop bleeding. Personally, I think this is a myth. The profuse bleeding is probably the result of multiple fine cuts made to look and feel worse by wet, cold hands. Whatever the reason, an open wound is never a good idea next to water, and I will make sure, as well as having the appropriate fish-care equipment, I have some 'me-care' gear with me as well!  

To be continued...

Ralph.
       

Sunday, 8 October 2017

How To Drown Maggots now has a Facebook Group

For all you Facebook fans out there, I have just started a Facebook group page, to complement this blog, where you can join in and post your comments, add your hints and tips or just show us what you have been doing. Rules are few but apart from the obvious ones about conduct and absolutely no swearing, I do not want to see any advertising, there are plenty of places to peddle your wares, so don't do it on my page.

To find the Facebook page, follow THIS link and join today!

Ralph.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Landing net rubbers

Most landing nets, especially the cheaper ones, are supplied with an O-ring at the bottom of the thread that is used to attach it to the handle. When I bought a set of three nets recently, one of the O-rings was missing. Rather than go back to the supplier, I thought this would be the ideal opportunity to try out something I have been thinking about for some time.

A neater solution than the usual O-ring
The usual O-ring that is supplied with most landing nets is inclined to twist out of shape and become malformed if the handle is overtightened to the net-head. This can mean the joint will have a tendency to loosen, especially if a big fish is in residence. What is really needed is a washer that can be tightened onto but will also have a bit of 'give' in it so the joint will undo without the use of tools.
It occurred to me that a tap washer would be the perfect substitute. A rummage around in my plumbing gear uncovered a box of mixed tap washers. Just to confuse the issue here, tap washers were originally sized according to the size of the threaded connection into the bottom of the tap, this means the stated size of the washer does not match up with its actual physical size.

I knew these would come in handy one day...

I selected a washer that actually measures 5/8 inch (aproximatly16mm) diameter. The washer I picked has a rubber core and a bonded mesh on each side making the mating surface particularly resistant to scuffing as it is tightened onto. The only problem with a tap washer is the hole in the centre is too small to wind it onto the thread of the net head. My first thought was to pop into the workshop and bore the hole out to a more suitable size. A simple job with a cordless drill and twist bit - wrong!

Larger than life O-ring and washers. The one of the far right has been bored out
The first problem is that it is impossible to hold by hand. Okay, that is easily cured by boring a hole is a scrap of wood, holding that down over the rubber and passing the drill bit through the hole to make the hole in the washer bigger. All that did was to expand the hole in the washer to become a very tight interference fit on the drill bit. The washer had merely expanded under the pressure of the drill. All I want to do is make the hole in the washer bigger. It would be so much easier to just punch it out to the correct size, well it would be if I had a punch!

The washer is prevented from expanding by fitting it in a blind hole of appropriate size
Nothing for it I am now going to have to make a jig, just to bore a hole in a tap washer. What I need to do is to stop the washer expanding as the revolving drill bit is applied to the hole. The jig is easily made by boring a shallow, 16mm diameter blind hole in a piece of MDF. A second piece of MDF has a hole bored through. This hole needs to be the same size as the drill bit to be used. Because the hole in the washer will close up a little after the re-sized hole is bored in it, I have found that a 9mm diameter bit seems to be just about right.

These parts need to be held together while boring out the washer
To use the jig, place the washer in the blind hole, centre the hole in the second piece of MDF over the washer to trap it. With the drill on its fastest speed setting, lightly bore out the hole in the washer through the hole in the second piece of MDF.

Done and now it will fit on the thread - albeit a tight fit
It sounds far more complicated than it really is. The washer can now be fitted to the net head and when the net is tightened up to the handle will not scrunch the washer up and will be securely attached to the handle. This is a straightforward fix, and once you have made the jig, you can convert any number of tap washers to a fishing application.

Ralph.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

I caught some perch!

Dawn and a quick snap from the cab can reflect this - and me!
Today, I finally managed to get a day's fishing in. As usual, I was late to bed last night and as it is Saturday today, the morning traffic is not as bad as it is during the week. I decided to have a lay-in and did not surface until 05:30. After making the coffee and packing the van, it was getting on for 06:30. Leaving at this time on a weekday would mean a two-hour trip if I was lucky. Today it was about three-quarters of an hour, and the M25 was running freely. The view from the side window reminds me of those old British Railways adverts and slogan "Let the train take the strain." Remember?

A rare sight - a blurred image of the traffic on the M25 - It looks very Turneresque 
On my arrival, I made for the fishery's office, paid my day ticket and bought a tub of worms to take fishing with me. Lucky worms! I am not keen on fishing with worms and even less keen on chopping up live worms then sticking things through their dismembered body... Hmmm... Can a worm be dismembered?

I was off to my favoured spot on The Major's Lake. When I arrived, I was shocked that someone dared to erect a bivvy in MY peg. Reaching for the baseball bat, a sudden sense of calm washed over me, and I decided to let the perpetrator off - this time. See what a calming influence has on me. My second choice of a swim, on the other side of the lake (where the disappearing rod incident took place) was inaccessible by the van as that part of the road is, for now, blocked by a couple of articulated lorry tractor units. Besides the swims, either side had been taken making it all a bit crowded. In the end, I settled for the corner swim that will forevermore be referred to as the 'Birthday Swim' since I christened my new accessory chair there on my sixtieth birthday.

The shallow end of the lake looked perfect
If I was an estate agent, I could flower this up to make it sound much better than it really was... Sorry if you are an estate agent, but I am not referring to you, just the stereotypical conception of the beast, honest...

During the week I made a batch of groundbait specifically aimed at attracting perch. The plan was to lay a bed of groundbait down, laced with a sprinkling of free offerings to match the hook bait. For example, I started off using prawns on the hook and added chopped prawn to the groundbait. This proved successful on the first chuck, much to my surprise. First fish and it was a member of the target species. Several more casts produced nothing and trying to keep the prawn on the barbless hook was proving difficult. Hooking a white maggot, in addition, also seemed to help.

Okay, not the biggest fish in the lake but at least it is a perch!
Now for a spot of worm carnage. My pot of worms was opened, and my first victim was extracted from the huddled mass. I place it on the lid, took a deep breath and chopped it into four bits. Blood a guts oozing out it looked repulsive, but I am sure the fish will like it. Two of the bits were chopped further, added to a golfball sized ball of groundbait and added to the swim.

I hooked one piece of worm and made a cast. Seconds later I had another perch similar in size to the first. I tried this several times without adding any more groundbait and caught several more fish of similar size, one after the other - all perch. I have never caught so many perch in one go before. I was finding nothing else. Could my new groundbait be working?

Just to see what would happen, I cast a maggot into another part of the lake and fed over the float with a few more maggots. I caught a roach, and another and another. I was just about to go back to my original line and go after the perch again when the rain came in.

Rain!
As you may be able to see, it was chucking it down. I switched my hoody for my coat, swapped my hat for the hood and continued - a spot of rain was not going to put me off. To be honest, I don't mind fishing in the rain, it is the setup in such conditions that I don't like. First priority is to cover the maggots as rain give them 'traction' as they all take on the positive mental attitude of Steve McQueen while portraying Capt. Virgil Hilts  (the 'Cooler King') in the classic film The Great Escape.

With a towel over my seat and standing up to cast (after checking for overhanging trees - I am learning!) I continued to fish and, yes, I caught another perch. This fellow did not look happy being dragged out of the lake, into the pouring rain. Perhaps fish don't like getting wet either.

"Oi! Put me back, can't you see it's raining out here!"
By lunchtime, the bites had dried up somewhat. I decided to give the swim a rest and have some lunch. All morning I had a sleeper rod out sitting close to the far bank hoping to catch a big fish patrolling the margins. So far this had not shown even a twitch, let alone a bite. Determined not waste any valuable fishing time, I put a second feeder rod out while I was eating my lunch. Just as I took a bite out of the first of my sandwiches, the tip of the newly cast rod flicked around ad I grabbed the rod just as the line went taught and broke. Classic error - guess who had not slackened off the drag before putting the rod down. This was, of course, a huge fish. It had to be at least twenty pounds in weight, a real specimen sized fish, it was T H I S big!  

Another feeder lost, and that was not the first piece of end tackle to get donated to the lake today. After lunch Andy, the bailiff, came along to check that everything was going to plan and made a few suggestions to help on my quest to bother some of the bigger perch. One of the things he said I could try was to put a heavier float on and cast beyond the patch of lilies to my left. I could then drag the float back so it would sit just next to them in the gap between the main clump and those few leaves to the right, as indicated in the picture by the red ellipse. I changed my float for an excellent new Drennan Puddle Chucker, and after throwing in a couple more of my small worm-laced balls of groundbait, I made a few casts. The float flew over the pads, and after a few further attempts, I was able to coax the float into just the right place. The float had not been sitting there long, presenting another piece of severed worm, when there was movement. First, a little shudder and then the float disappeared like a stone. I had something a bit bigger on the end of the line. 

Trying to stay calm I gently applied pressure to the line and, whatever I had hooked, started to pull back. At last, I had a decent fish with which to play. Then it stopped, I kept the pressure on, but nothing was happening. I released the pressure and reapplied it. Nothing. It was rock solid. I polled a little harder but whatever I was pulling against it was not moving. Eventually, the line went slack, and I retrieved in a section of vegetation. Whatever had taken the worm had released itself and snagged me up. Clever them fish!

Now disheartened with the loss, I decided to leave my pursuit of perch for a while and try out my (new to me) method of attaching the line to the elastic of my tele-pole. Of all my gear, I am now most impressed with my little tele-pole. As supplied I am sure these poles are intended for children to provide a simple method of fishing that does not involve a reel. As such, I am confident they are good. My one came in a starter set I bought when I first set out fishing three years ago. If you have been following this blog from the beginning, you will know that it has gone through a few changes of use in its life. I converted it to a margin cupping pole and used it used it to cup in corn custard for a while. I then elasticated it and turned it into something much more useful. 

The last time I took it out the elastic broke at the connector, so I decided to try the 'crows foot' connection method. Below is a short video explanation I found on YouTube, by Steve Lockett, for those who are not familiar with the technique. It is nine years old now but is very clear and well presented. I added a soft bead to the elastic to prevent the elastic disappearing through the bush and to protect the line from consistently hitting the pole tip.



Out with the tele-pole and maggots and I had a nice relaxing hour catching roach and skimmers, by using single or double maggot on the hook and feeding them loose over the top. I was only fishing the tele-pole for an hour or so, but I had no perch at all in that time. 

Having lost a feeder and got bored with the tele-pole (it is too easy), I went back to my original plan to catch perch. Although I had been snagged by a fish earlier, I thought I would try again to pick one off from under the lily pads. Again I cast over the pads and pulled the float back into my desired position. After a while, I was suspicious that I was snagged as the float had not moved an inch. Sure enough, I was snagged. I pulled the line reasonably tight and tried a dropshotting technic for freeing braided line. The line is pulled tight and plucked fairly vigorously sending a shockwave down the line. I had no idea if this would work with monofilament line, but I had nothing to lose. It did, and the float and end tackle complete with bait rejoined me on the bank at the speed of a bullet. Two subsequent attempts, however, were not so successful and I ended up donating a couple of my favourite floats to the lake, with no more fish to show for it. At this point, it was time to go home. 

I had a great day, survived a torrential downpour and proved that my new groundbait recipe had at least not frightened the fish off. It is too early to say it works, but at least I know it is not doing any harm. I will try it out over the autumn and winter, diluting it with a non-food bulk (molehill soil) in the rivers to save overfeeding and to get it down to the bottom before too much of it is washed away in the flow. 

 Ralph.