Saturday, 8 July 2017

Urban fishing 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Ralph.
                   

Friday, 7 July 2017

Urban fishing

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

And finally...

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

My (fuzzy) PB stickleback!

Ralph.    

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Late start - big mistake!

I managed to squeeze in another day at Beaver today. It was a bit of a last minute decision as I wanted to collect a second hand landing net handle from the tackle shop, I had seen on Saturday. As is usual in this house, nothing is straightforward. As Rabbie Burns wrote (well almost!) The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. By 1:30 AM, I was still mooching about sorting bits and pieces for today's trip and tidying up some loose ends of work. Half an hour later I was ready for bed. I normally leave home about 05:45 after setting the alarm for 05:00.

As I set the alarm on my smart-phone, yes we have arrived in the twenty-first century, it then proceeded to inform me that it will be sounding in two hours and fifty-seven minutes... Groan. I don't need a lot of sleep, but under three hours is not really enough, even for me. I decided to leave a little later and grab an extra hour or so of sleep.

Two hours and fifty-seven minutes later the alarm on my not-so-smart, smartphone went off. If it was that smart it would have realised it was too early to get up and with the afore mentioned words of Rabbie Burns going around and around in my head, like the literary version of a musical ear-worm, I tried to go back to sleep, but to no avail. I laid there for an hour and eventually got up at 06:00. An hour later than usual. By now I was fine. The lack of sleep was now forgotten and I was firing on all four cylinders. I made my coffee, packed my food and the bait from the fridge but left the bread and feed meat behind by mistake. 

Oh bother! - or something similar
The traffic was a bit heaver than usual, but I had expected that. what I did not expect was an almost stationary on-ramp to the M25 at Swanley. Great. Just over two hours after leaving home I arrived at Beaver Fishery, a trip that normally takes well under an hour. 

I nipped into the office via the staff entrance after parking in the spot that says 'Staff Only'. I can be a bit of a revolutionary some times. I bought my two-rod day ticket, paid for the landing net handle and had a moan about the traffic which was received with complete ambivalence, as usual. I didn't care, it just had to be said. There was one very small advantage with being a little later on a Thursday; the bin-lorry was on its way back up the A22 holding up the north-bound traffic. Normally I am sitting in a queue behind it waiting to get past while it is it on its journey south.

Lately I have been going on about how much gear I take fishing. I have tried cutting it down but unless I am specifically attempting to fish a one-rod session, it is not the best idea for me. I have now got a new mantra. Today I took a good selection of gear and decided what I wanted to use when I got there. This is only practical at venues where I can park at the swim. The last thing I want to do is to leave a van half full of tackle unattended. That is just asking for trouble. It is sad that this has to be considered but I am afraid it is a sign of the times we live in. I was fishing a venue in Kent last year and there was a big match being held on an adjacent lake. Parking for the match was behind where I was fishing. a lot of the guys with vans, emptied the contents onto trolleys and left the van doors wide open. I assume this was to show that nothing was left inside and it was not worth breaking in. Not a bad plan as I know with my van I can lock the cab and leave the back and side doors open.

Security issues aside, I stocked the van with far more than I was going to use so I could make a final decision once I was at the venue. Today was a pleasure session so there was no set plan or strict tackle requirement. I had with me a good selection of rods and a selection of cheap tele-poles, plus enough end tackle to set up a market stall!
My swim for the day
Maze Lake was my choice today. I drove through the complex and parked on the hard standing behind the pegs on the East side of the lake. This is a place I have fished many times before. It can be hard going but it is much better than just dragging the fish out one after the other with little or no thought. I had no idea how the lake was going to fish. Earlier on in the year the lake had been stocked up with several hundred pounds of bream that had been moved from the specimen lakes during their complete refurbishment. I was hoping to find some of those. 

First job was to set a sleeper up. I picked a spot and laid a bed of about twenty of my own home made Two Dog boilies. I then cast a chod rig out, over the top, using a pop-up pineapple flavoured boilie as hook bait. With that rig set, I made sure the line-clip was released and left it sitting across a couple of bank sticks with the bait-runner set with minimum drag. I had three carp rods made up, one now in use and another four feeder/float rods also made up. Looking at the water I decided to make up my old vintage Silstar float rod I have been using recently. I really like this rod, it may be old and heavy by today's standard but I seem to get on with it really well. Being 13ft long means I can fish close in with just the lightest of lobs. 

Silvers - lots of 'em
I settled down to a spot of silver bashing and was catching steadily, mainly small roach on maggot. I did manage to catch one perch but he decided to jump straight back into the lake as soon as I had unhooked him! A couple of hours later the silvers were still taking the lime-light while the sleeper rod was living up to its name. I had no bite alarm on the set-up as I was sitting right next to it and there is nothing more annoying to other anglers than the constant bleeping of the buzzer every time something brushes the line or a robin bounces on the rod. the drag was enough to indicate something was interested, but nothing was. 

By lunch time I had not had any interest, so I decided to check the bait. I reeled in and the bait looked exactly the same as it did several hours earlier. At this point I could see no advantage in recasting to the same spot and picked another fishy looking spot, next to the end of a 'finger' of land that extends into the lake. This area is full of overhanging trees, bushes and reeds. I edged my way towards the spot by clipping up and letting out a few more feet of line and casting again until I was about as close as I dare. I cast. The rig hit the overhanding tree branches, fell through straight into the bushes and some how bounced off the reeds and landed a few inches into the margin. I could not do that again even if I was stupid enough to try. The rig was a standard chod rig baited with one of Ringer's 8 mm 'Bandems'  Pellet Wafters, screwed onto one of my home-made bait spikes. These things are intended to be hair rigged on a band, as the name suggests but hold well on a bait spike. 

A nice F1 off the sleeper rod
Having got the rig just where I wanted it, there was no way I was going to retrieve it to check that I had not lost the bait on its way through the trees. I decided to give it an hour and see what happened. I catapulted a few of my Two Dog boilies out there to give the fish something to get them feeding. Within about twenty minutes my faith was rewarded and the line was ripping off the reel. After swinging silvers to hand all morning on a float rod, this felt like something huge. The carp rod was doing its job and I managed to get the fish landed. Nothing spectacular, but a fish none the less, this decent sized F1was the biggest fish I had caught for a while.

I rebated with a new wafter, the original one was still on the spike, but I thought it had done its job and a fresh one would impart a stronger fresh scent. I was not so daring this time and dropped the wafter about a foot short of the undergrowth, I can't be that lucky twice in a row.

Now the fish seemed to have woken up it was out with the method feeder. The fish seem to like the Two Dog boilies so it made sense to try the Two Dog groundbait on the feeder. Baited with a decent lump of punched Bacon Grill, I set about casting to a spot just to the side of a patch of lilly pads. I didn't have to wait too long to get a bite and sure enough the method was getting bites. Admittedly, only small F1s but a bite is a bite. Surprisingly I saw none of the bream, that have been introduced to the lake, all day.

For the last hour or so, I left the sleeper rod out and had a go at the margin. I had been feeding the margin with the odd handful of maggots, corn, meat and groundbait all afternoon on the hope of attracting some bigger fish. I dropped a feeder in a spot where the bank dropped away steeply and I was getting line bites straight away. Just as I was thinking this was looking promising, the top of the rod bent double and I had a decent fish on the hook. I have tried this before and when there is so little line between the rod and the fish it is hard to control the fish without it breaking off. This time the drag was set to allow the fish to take line. The trouble was it was set tight enough to give enough resistance to spook the fish and it headed straight into the reeds. I was stuck, the line was solid. I tried to walk along the bank to give another angle of attack but to no avail. I could see the nice new medium size, 30g feeder that had run up the line, as it should, just long enough to say goodbye as the line broke and sent it to the depths. 

Ta-dah! Best fish of the day
Okay, not deterred by this I decided to try again but this time with the drag wound out to almost nothing. Again a lot of activity and then the bite. This time the fish ran to open water and I was able to control it. After a long careful battle I managed to land a very well appreciated mirror. Not the biggest fish on the planet but a decent size for me and my biggest fish of the year so far.

With that is was time to pack up and set off home. Another good day at the lake. This time I had the right gear I only used three rods all day. I had given myself the option to fish whatever seemed to be right for the day. I am still planning to have a go at surface fishing using dog mixers, and had the conditions been different I would have done so today but just like Saturday, the only thing interested in my floaters were the moorhens and I am sure they would not appreciate one laced with a hook. 

Very strange. The one on the end looks different. I wonder if he is a hanger-on
One of the funniest things that happened today was the goose procession. When I arrived they were sitting on one of the 'fingers' of land that give Maze Lake its name. Then all of a sudden they all took to the water and went for a circuit of the lake. All very orderly and with a sense of purpose. They did this a couple of time during the day, I have no idea why. I enjoy watching the bird-life at Beaver, after a while the birds grow in confidence and will sit all around waiting for scraps. Having lived in London all my life, it is really nice to sit there interacting with nature that is not so easily accessible in the High Street! I will finish this post with this picture of a confused robin wondering how he was going to carry all his shopping home.


How am I supposed to pick all those up as well?
Ralph.           
  

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Fry-day on Saturday

After a week of sweltering, record-breaking whether here in London, I decided I needed some relaxation in the relative cool of an overcast day at the lake with a selection of tackle. For the past few weeks I have been fishing 'light', taking minimum tackle with the idea of keeping it simple. This practice backfired last Wednesday, as you may have read HERE. Today I was not going to be restricted for choice.

On Wednesday the fish were taking floating bait and cruising around just under the surface. I had a float rod and that was it. It was a breezy day and I was struggling to keep the float stationary even using a long waggler. Today I was not going to be so restricted. Space not being a problem, I packed the van with a good selection of rods, my favourite cheap 5m tele-pole, and a good selection of bait. My aim was to try grabbing the fish off the top with some surface bait. I had a couple of new baits, for me, mini marshmallows and dog mixer biscuits. I also had bread with me. To cope with the huge fish I was going to be hauling out of The Major's Lake, I had packed a carp rod, or three.

As you may have gathered I was off to Beaver Fishery today. The variety of fishing there is great, currently spread over eight lakes and ponds, everything from a well stocked runs lake where your are guaranteed a fish, an idyllic pond with roach, tench, perch and the odd big carp, to the two specimen lakes where you can catch big carp in one and enormous moggies in the other. I usually avoid commercials at the weekend but today I was planning on fishing one of the less 'inhabited' parts of the fishery. I got there about twenty minutes before the gate opens at 07:00 to find five or six cars queuing already. I was not too bothered by this as I was fairly confident that my chosen spot was not going to be inundated with people, and I was right. I had the bank to myself.

The Major's Lake was not going to give up its fish to me today...
I have fished here several times in the past and had a good selection of fish from reasonable bream, tench and perch as well as a good selection of roach and other small silvers. The plan was to put out a sleeper rod over to the island and collect the odd fish trying to keep out of the way. While the other rod was 'sleeping' I had a little go with the tele-pole while soaking some mixers ready for a session of picking 'em off the top a bit later in the day.

I threw a few mixers in just to see if anything was interested. To my surprise, they started zipping about and fizzing. At first I thought there was something in the mixers reacting with the water, the reaction was so vigorous, closer inspection revealed they were being attacked by hundreds (thousands even!?) of fry, I have never seen so many. Lots of fry, but no bigger fish showing any interest. In fact the only interest shown was by the local population of Moorhen; mum (I assume) and a couple of chicks. The chicks were hiding in a clump of reeds to my left and soon recognised the plop of mixer into water meant a free lunch. None of the mixers lasted more than a few seconds before they were 'rescued' by one of the chicks. At this point I realised that floater fishing was out for today, at least in this spot.

I discovered by bitter experience there is not much point in trying to relocate on a Saturday so I decided to just stay put and try a spot of feeder fishing instead. I was now feeling very smug about deciding to bring a good selection of gear. The carp rods went back in the van and the feeder rods came out. Well, I say feeder rods but my short feeders are called 'Picker' rods. Even now after two and a half years plus, I am still baffled by the total lack of standardisation in fishing. Rods, reels, line and hooks all seem to vary from make to make. I am sure they only do it to confuse me! At 9ft and 8ft, give or take a bit, they are ideal for this sort of fishing and allow me to cast easier in confined places. It is all very well being in an idyllic setting but I am always mindful of the tree Gods about me, attempting to claim my end tackle.

I left the sleeper rod out for a couple of hours at a time, checking the chod rig and hooking a fresh PVA mesh bag full of boilies, particles and groundbait each time. To cut a long story short - that did nothing. I saw the odd fish break the surface but not a sign of anything on that rod all day.

I also caught next to nothing on the feeder or the tele-pole. I caught about three fish, none of which required the landing net so the nets were still dry when it was time to pack up. I hardly saw any fish action, other than the fry, but it seems most people were reporting the same. I am wondering if the fish were still recovering after spawning. Someone said it was probably the air pressure but I don't know. I need to study these sort of things a bit more to give me a better chance of 'reading' the water and conditions with a more informed eye.

Fish or no fish I had a great day experimenting and feeding the wild fowl while taking in all the nature around me. I even managed to practise my Spanish by having a short siesta in the afternoon...

...Siesta is Spanish for nap, you know!

Ralph.
      

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Longest day of the year...

It is also on track to be the hottest day here in the UK in over 40 years. I remember the summer of 1976 it was hot and I was working in a printer's studio in the East End of London. As I was the 'New Boy' I was stuck with any darkroom work. The dark room was an old cupboard that still housed the hot water cylinder - it must have been 200ยบ in there!

Today I went to Oakley Road Fishery (ORF) and I am pleased I did. By lunchtime it was so hot I had already drunk all my drink - all two litres of it! As the fishery is only a few miles away and with a day ticket cost of only £7.00 (That is cheap for down here in the South East) I was not bothered about packing up after six or seven hours. There is no way I was going to sit there and fry in sun-block.

I have been on a mission in recent months to take less gear with me. Well, it may be laudable to try and fish with minimum gear but I think I may have taken this a bit to far. Today, I left home at about 07:30, so no great rush, and arrived at ORF by 08:00. I could have got there earlier but there is no real advantage in that when I am just planning a sit by the lake with some fishing thrown in. I had taken just one rod and one reel. My 13ft 'vintage' (ish!) Silstar match rod and a medium sized Greys fixed spool reel. Bait was limited to just maggots, casters and pellets. I only had a minimal amount of end tackle. In fact. everything I had with me I could easily carry in one go.

Initially I was going to take a couple of feeder/picker rods with me but, in a last minute change of heart, I decided to leave them behind, working on my minimal gear idea. Although I had left the rods behind I had earlier packed some feeders and groundbait that I still had with me. This was advantageous, as it turned out.

There has been some talk recently on the ORF Facebook page regarding the impending arrival of Doug Anderson, all the way from Australia. I knew he had been here for over a week now so I was not sure if I was going to meet this mystery member of Oakley Royalty. I needn't have worried as sitting in the opulent surroundings of the fishery's office was Doug himself. He welcomed me warmly and I introduced myself as "Ralph, the bloke with the blog". To my surprise, his eyes lit up and he said he had actually read it. Blimey, I thought I was the only one who actually reads my waffle...

I made my way around the lake to the other side, the water is apparently deeper over there. I found a spot between a couple of very large and well established silver birch trees. Casting is awkward from there with a 13ft rod, even from the seated position and me and the tree Gods have never seen eye-to-eye about the sacrifice of tackle. Nevertheless, I set about plumbing the depth and yes it is a bit deeper at this end but not by very much. For a few hours I had the top of the lake to myself and set about fishing for whatever came along. The first fish to come and say hello was a small rudd. There are lots of rudd around and they are a sucker for a single maggot or caster.

First fish of the day
There was a lot of tow in the lake and there was a fairly strong breeze for the first few hours. Out with the long wagglers. This did slow the drift down a bit but it is not ideal. The bait must have been just trailing/dragging along behind probably spooking more fish than it was attracting. The fish were not really interested in the bottom as fish were topping all over the place. Hmmm... My 'going light' plan is proving to be a pain. Where I would usually have a van full of gear to fall back on I was completely under-gunned. If I had put some extra bait in I could have stripped the end tackle and just free-lined a floating bait but that was not an option. This lack of tackle was made even more apparent when Doug, who was fishing down the bank, called me over to show me the fish he had just hooked off the surface using nothing more than a hook and dog biscuits. I rushed over to where he was fishing to see what turned out to be a carp of about 10lb.

Doug with the carp off the top I sent down to him...
Back at the birches, I continued to fish varying the depth trying to find some fish. I found all sorts of silvers including some more rudd, roach and a few skimmers but no carp. I was happy, at least I was catching fish.

Look I caught a fish bigger than Doug's - at least in the picture!
Just as I was settling down to catching a few more Doug was into another carp. This one was Bigger than the last and was giving his landing net a bit of a work out. This one Doug reckoned was about 14lb.

An even bigger carp chewing Doug's thumb
The fish were sitting there right in front of Doug not really interested in his free offerings or the hook bait. I suspect the ones that got caught were more annoyed with the bait than hungry for it.

Buy now, it was starting to feel far too hot. It was now pushing towards the low 30s (centigrade) and beginning to get uncomfortable. I was determined to catch a bigger fish so I stripped down the tackle from my float rod and rigged it with a method feeder. Groundbait (my own Surf 'n' Turf) on the feeder with a 8mm pellet on a banded hair. Using my tried and tested method of finding a spot, clipping up and hitting the same spot with about three loaded feeders seemed to do the trick. The next cast produced an F1 within a few seconds. The feeder really does work well here.

The sun was high in the sky and the shadows from the net add strange 'markings' to this very nice looking F1
That was it. Time to head home, it is far too hot here today for a long session, besides I will be out again on Saturday. Another great day at ORF and a very enjoyable one too. I may not have caught as big a fish as Doug, but it was a great day made even better by meeting the man himself.

Heading home, just one more cast... I just noticed my van is the same colour as the Port-a-loo, must make sure I get in the right one!
One advantage of going light is that I could collect everything together and do just one trip to the van and being at ORF means I will be home in less than 20 minutes. I will be back soon with some heavier gear and a tub of Chum Mixers...

Ralph.
    

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Disgruntled - not really my thing

Two years ago, this month, I was invited to join in with an open match at Beaver Fishery. If you read the post from that day, you will see that I was under equipped and lacking in most of the basic skills. Even so I still managed to score well enough to put me in tenth place. I was really pleased with myself and decided to have another go. Over the past two years I have joined in with most of the opens at Beaver, only missing the odd one here and there, due to work commitments. Oh, and I did manage to oversleep on one occasion!

Mostly, the time spent has been enjoyable but recently I have realised I am really not cut out to be a matchman. In two years I have not got any better at it. I have never had that competitive streak. The first few matches taught me a lot. The guys that fish the matches are a great bunch of friendly blokes and made me feel welcome but like anything you have to put the hours in to be any good at it. Most of these guys spend every hour they can match fishing, and a lot of them are out at least once a week and many of them more than that, just match fishing. I don't want to spend the limited time I have to fish, practising for the next match, which is what seems to have happened.

I want to spend more time just fishing for whatever takes my fancy, when and where I like. I am not saying I will not join in with the odd match here and there, because I am sure I will, but for the time being I am going to concentrate on my pleasure fishing, experimenting with bait and expanding my rig making skills, while getting some time in on the pole.

The June Match

This week I fished the match at Beaver. I decided to take minimal gear and to leave my long pole at home. I ended up with a feeder rod, a pellet waggler rigged with a Sodafloat and a 5m tele-pole fitted with a medium strength elastic to cope with the F1s that Jeff's Lake is full of.

The new Sodafloat
The plan was to fish the method feeder to start with and then, as the fish moved up in the water, to pick them off with the Sodafloat. Finally to collect them from the margins in the last hour. Nice simple plan. It started well with the first decent sized F1in the net within the first five minutes. Almost immediately another F1 was hooked. It was fighting hard and I was probably too overenthusiastic. It bumped off. Two more fish were also lost almost at the net. That was it. I must have spooked all the fish out of my swim. I was stuck on Peg 11, which is not my favourite peg but I am not using that as an excuse.

My final catch placed me last - again!
Now I could not find the fish on the bottom, up in the water or anywhere else for that matter. I probably lost more fish than I caught. The fish in the lake are getting a fair bit bigger than they were when I first had a go at this and I have not really taken this into account. I did manage to land one from the margin on my tele-pole but that was it leaving me with six fish, four F1s, one ghost carp and a tiny roach. I was encouraged by the fact that although my weight was only good enough to give me last place, the others were not all miles better than me.

Last!- Well, at least I caught some fish this time
I have fished from the other pegs along this bank and done much better. Except last time, that is, when I managed to blank. That was back in April as I did not make it to the May match due to work commitments.

Around midday I suddenly realised for the first time that I really was not happy. It was not the lack of catch, although that did not help, but I was thinking about my next pleasure trip. I think what drove it home to me that I was not enjoying this was two-fold. First I realised I was forcing myself to practise, or rather not wanting to practise. I don't want to spend days practising for a match when I would rather be doing my own thing. Then at this match, I was pegged next to a young lad who a year ago was catching next to nothing and enjoying every moment. From that day he has spent every spare moment he can practising on this lake and improving his skills to a level far above mine. It is great to see him improve and to see how much pleasure he is getting out of it. For me however, I really do not want to spend that much time just pulling F1s out of Jeff's Lake one after to other to build my match skills.

It may sound as if I am disillusioned because I have been placed bottom in the last two matches I have entered I really don't think that is it. I think I have performed poorly because I have lost my enthusiasm for match fishing and that has affected my preparation and performance on the day.

It is so easy to get swept along with something and end up doing it because it is there, time for a change. I will give the matches a rest for the time being, I have not entered any more at the moment and that means I will be going fishing when and where I want and for as long and short as I want. Great!

Ralph.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

A return to Oakley Road

This fishing locally is a new thing for me. No getting up at silly times, no long drive and very little kit. All set for another pleasant day by the lake It was not until I got here that I remembered I said was going to have .a go at the bigger fish using feeder tactics next time I came here. Oh well, that will have to be next time now as I was standing there holding the same tackle I took last time. Never mind I have a lot of things I want to try. Not least of all, the posh branded sweetcorn. Up until now I have been using Tesco Everyday Value sweetcorn. Mainly because one of the magazines recommended it a couple of years ago. It was not until I did my own comparisons over the past few weeks that I realised the brand leader, Green Giant, is canned in salt water and most of the others are in just plain water, but my Tesco Everyday offering is actually canned in water with sugar added. I wanted to see if my mediocre success with corn has been down to the brand I was using.

I arrived at the fishery at around 10:00 and had a quick look around for a spot. I picked a place on the back of the lake that looked interesting. As I went back to the car to load myself up with gear, someone else arrived and promptly claimed my place. Hmmm... Thinking I may not make myself very popular by going over there an chucking all his gear, and possibly him, in the lake, I decided to pick another spot on one of the vacant platforms along the road side of the lake.

This picture, taken last time I was here, shows my chosen peg for the day
It was not until I was set up that I realised I was sitting right under the trees. Note for self: Pole might be a better bet from this side of the lake. To make matters worse, I had a 13ft float rod and nothing else. Oh well, it will be fun trying to work out how to get to the fish.

I was going to be restricted to an underarm lob or a sideways flick. Either way, I was going to have to do a bit of experimentation as I am far from proficient at either technique. By the time I had prepared the groundbait, set up with maggots and corn and covered my home-produced casters with water it was time to tackle up. A small reel and a spool filled with 6lb line, a 12 inch hook length of 4lb line and a No.16 hook. A  pre-loaded crystal waggler was fitted with a silicone float adaptor and held in position using float stops. The extra shot was strung out down the line, shirt-button style, to set the float tip showing a few millimetres above the surface. A quick bit of plumbing gave me the depth. Right, done, cast. No splash. TREES! Oh, how easy I find I can grow to dislike trees, there is no way this lot are getting a hug. After a bit of tugging and, shall we say, a spot of  'verbal encouragement', I manage to retrieve all my tackle. A few minutes repositioning shot and re-baiting the hook with a single piece of sweetcorn, I was ready to have another go. This time it made all the right noises - Plop!

First of many skimmers fell to my first cast on corn
As soon as the rig hit the water I followed it with three pieces of corn over the float. An easy chuck by hand. No sooner the float had settled, it shuddered and dipped under the water with that casual ease that tells me there is a skimmer on the other end. Sure enough the first skimmer of the day had fallen for sweetcorn. This was an encouraging sight. I spent the next couple of hours catching skimmer after skimmer. Nothing of any size, but plenty of them and mostly of similar size. I guess the bigger ones were off having a cigarette after spawning, at least that is what the carp down my end of the lake must have been doing. I did not catch a single carp all day. Others at the deeper end of the lake had a few as I could see them being netted, but it was not a carp-fest by any means.

A lapse of concentration resulted in me hooking the heaviest catch of the day - a 15 tonne Oak tree. To my relief it let most of my tackle go, retaining the hook as a souvenir. Time to tackle up again as by now the line was stretched and the shotting pattern had been destroyed - snip!

Lots of nice roach on maggot
This time I baited up with a heavier float, which meant I could get a little bit more distance. I re-plumbed the depth at my new target area only to discover it was not much different, if at all. I switched bait to maggot and started off with a single white and as I expected the small roach were getting in on the act. I persisted and the fish got a bit bigger but nothing great. Doubling up the hook bait to one red, one white maggot resulted in a few bigger fish, but again nothing spectacular.

I continued to fish on, enjoying the challenge, it can be very boring fishing alone if it is too easy. My only real claim to fame of the day was to catch my PB smallest skimmer. The little fellow was more slime than meat. I had another great day by restricting my tackle and having limited options as far as casting was concerned. The platform I was fishing from was structurally sound and would have been perfect for pole fishing as the trees would not have been a problem. This was only my second visit to this small friendly fishery and I am still learning the topography of the lake and its surroundings. There is a smaller lake at Oakley Road to try but first I need to get to know this one - one thing at a time.


Smallest skimmer of the day - a PB (smallest) skimmer!
I packed up, was in the car by 19:00 and home twenty minutes later. I really like the convenience of Oakley Road it is reasonably priced for a day ticket venue and with membership I would be able to fish on into the evening - an attractive possibility at this time of the year. Membership would also give me a reduced day-ticket fee making it all look very attractive.

Next time I will take a feeder rod and see how I get on. It is not a very big lake so a small picker rod should do the business, so look out Mr. double carp, I plan to meet with you next time.

Ralph.