Monday, 21 December 2015

Regent's Canal first fish!

This time of year I do prefer a spot of urban fishing. I know the die-hards will be out their on the muddy banks, fighting the elements, man (or woman!) against fish. Me, I am a city-boy, I don't get the attraction of mud!

A week or so ago, there I was sitting on the bank, competing in the last match of the year for me. Very few fish, a bit damp and very muddy. As you may have guessed I am not a great lover of the cold, wet and MUDDY countryside, at least not sitting in it for hours on end. Yes, I did enjoy myself on that occasion but I don't want to make a habit of it when I can get my fishing fix in far more familiar surroundings - Town.

No mud and minimal gear makes urban fishing the way to go for me at this time of year 
Another big draw for me is that it is free, not that I mind paying for my fishing but if I only want to spend a couple of hours at it I don't feel like I have paid for a whole day. With the gear all sorted out we made our way over to King's Cross with the intention of fishing to the East of the station.

At the moment the railways in London are constantly being disrupted for works. some of this is small and occasional maintenance operations but others are not. The Crossrail project causes all sorts of closures from time to time but for us it is London Bridge closures that have the most impact. On Sunday it was completely closed with no trains even running through it. A quick search of the Transport for London (TfL) website gave us alternative routes and we were pleased to see that we could travel from one of our local stations and trains were being diverted into Victoria Station instead. A handful of stops on the Victoria Line tube and we were standing on the concourse of King's Cross Station.

Rusty buildings seem to be the in thing
The redevelopment of the area around King's Cross is staggering. The area has changed beyond all recognition. New buildings progress skyward with a relentless momentum that seems unstoppable. I must say I do like a lot of the modern architecture but I am puzzled over the idea of featuring bare steel that is allowed to rust. It seems to be the current flavour of the month, not only with buildings, but signs and bizarrely, art installations in urban areas that bleed  their rust stains onto the fine stone plinths and paving that surrounds them. Maybe I am just getting old!

The building in the picture above is not rusty because it is being built, it is meant to be that way! Even the hoardings around the site are printed with a 'rust' effect. Maybe it will grow on me but I think I would prefer to see it finished rather than just left, seems like a cop-out to me...

... I digress, back to the fishing.

Fuzzy fish!
Yes, I know it is not up to our usual standard. You just can't get the staff these days. My gillette (female version of a ghillie...) was having trouble with the camera. Quality aside, had to include this rather fuzzy picture of the very first fish I have caught dropshotting. Not only that, it is the first fish I have caught in the Regent's Canal!

Crazy Fish Tipsy from AGM
It was loafing about at the rear of one of the houseboats moored along the canal. I used one of the Fox ready-made dropshot rigs and a small orange Crazy Fish 5cm Tipsy that the fish went for on the first drop. These little plastic lures are impregnated with the most disgusting smells - in this case it is squid. There are thousands to choose from and it is a case of just pick a few and see what works. This one came from AGM but whatever you do don't go and brows their catalogue, you could spend a fortune on little plastic fish! Seriously, they have a vast collection of these lures and all sorts of hooks, weights and jig-heads. You do need to have a few spares if you are fishing in urban canals. They are full of old rubbish and although the Regent's was cleaned in places last year, it is still full of stuff to entangle your gear. I lost a couple of lures, hooks and weights that just would not wriggle free. I think as time goes on I will get to know where not to fish. I lost one rig while fishing around the temporary floating pontoons that are being used to keep the toe-path open while it is being refurbished in several places, especially around Kings Cross. I suspect I hooked a submerged tethering rope. I will not be going too near those in future.

As the night started to close in the whole place takes on a new feeling (I think they call it a vibe these days). The lights come on and still the world carries on. One feature of the canal is the floating shop that moves about from one place to the other supplying peculiar collections of pages, decorated with type and pictures. They are heavy and completely devoid of hyper-links of any kind - I think they call them books - remember those?

The picture is taken from the top of the modem flight of steps that marks the entrance to the now filled in basin that now forms Granary Square. The area has changed so much that is hard to recognise where you are if you venture away from the canal.

Do bookworms make good bait?
As we were packing up to leave we spotted this heron on the opposite bank feasting on all he (she?) could find. Again, sorry about the grim picture but the light was going, it was too far away and I was standing on a pontoon, that was far from stable, using a compact camera. But you get the idea. It was his fault I only caught one fist in a couple of hours - Well, that is my excuse anyway. We only had a couple of hours on the Canal but it was very enjoyable and I learnt a few things. One thing I must do is to buy some bright coloured braid. It was almost impossible to see the line in the low light conditions. I am also going to buy a good selection of cheap weights as they are bound to get snagged from time to time and I don't want to fill the canal with expensive tungsten weights. Another thought maybe to try some weed-less hooking techniques with the hook point almost buried in the small plastic lure. I think I need to have a hunt around for some more supplies and I must not go on the AGM site, no, not even for a little glance, no.... not at all... Well, maybe just a quick peek...

Ralph.   

Monday, 14 December 2015

Who forgot to bring the fish?

Saturday saw a gathering of members of the Maggot Drowning Forum to participate in the South East Fur and Feather match held at Furnace Brook Fishery, East Sussex. This is a wonderful lake set in a valley. Even on a murky winter's day the place has an inviting charm.

The day commenced with the usual early start. Not cold at all, and refreshingly it was dry as I loaded the van.  A few drops of rain on the window were not the prelude to a wet day - thank goodness. I really did not fancy sitting on the bank cold and wet.

It's dark, it's 5:45AM and I'm goin' fishin'... Bonkers!
This time on a Saturday morning even the streets of London are relatively quiet. I decided to drive out through the suburbs to the M25. Normally I will take the other option and drive due East out to the motorway via the south circular to Swanley and drive back around the M25. a much longer route in distance but quicker due to the ability to drive at a decent speed. Driving through deserted streets at 30mph (20mph in places) is frustrating to say the least. The nice sedate drive, admiring the new speed cameras (he said gritting his teeth), got me onto the M25 and onward to the A21. This, for those who don't know it is a decent run of dual carriageway as far as Southborough, where Jane insisted I should "Take the exit". That was the end of the easy driving from here on down it was town and country lanes that just got narrower and narrower... Not fun at all in the dark, punching the van down unfamiliar country lanes hopping that nothing was coming the other way as there was no room to pass. Eventually I made it to the fishery at 07:20 and managed to get parked.

I was the second one there. I could see a light on in the lodge and squelched my way through the gate and over towards the smell of bacon cooking. I was greeted by one of the other guys, Wayne, sitting there fondling the fishery cat, and the guy making the bacon smell.  After exchanging a few pleasantries the afore mentioned cat decided to bite Wayne and was duly 'ejected' from its previous position. The cat made a swift exit out onto the balcony that over-looks the end of the lake. this was followed by an almighty splash!  We both rushed out there expecting to see a half drowned cat. Instead we realised the cat had surprised a duck that made a rapid decent into the lake. The cat was no where to be seen.

A huge baguette stuffed with several rashers of bacon and a mug of tea followed, re leaving us of a very reasonable £4 each. Time to get the gear ready. By this time the others had arrived and the sun had risen. The guys were chewing-the-cud in the car park and getting their trolleys ready. Posh, branded luggage was carefully piled onto designer trolleys ready for the off. It is at this point that I feel like the the poor-relation, akin to an allotment being compared with a stately garden. My meagre kit piled higgledy-piggledy onto my sack barrow and secured with some bright red bungee straps.

View from my peg. That little blue shape under the red arrow is the van!
Kit loaded, it was time for the draw. I pulled peg 5. Yes, you guessed it, right up the far end of the lake. A good peg I was told. After dragging the loaded barrow with one hand and the pound-shop bucket in the other to the peg I was then faced with a flight of steps down to the peg itself. Leaving the barrow at the top would have been the sensible thing to do, but no. Muggins here decided that he would roll it down the grass bank. Halfway down It became obvious that this course of action was never going to have a happy outcome as there was a, eighteen inch vertical drop at the bottom of the slope to the peg.  The trolley did a broadside and landed on its side with all the gear in disarray.  Well, that's one way of doing it. The only major inconvenience was that my cantilevered tackle box that had just been tidied and carefully sorted out was now well and truly un-sorted!

It didn't take me long to set up my small amount of kit. I had my feeder rods set up already, only requiring the addition of hook lengths and bait to be added. I pitched (if that is the right word) my keep nets, positioned my seat, set out my other bits and pieces and that was it, ready. Still having half and hour or so until the off, I went for a wonder around and a chat with the others while they were setting up. Ten competitors, and what seemed like nine poles... Hmmm... Might be something I am missing here, me thinks.

Just before the whistle, calm and coloured water
10 o'clock, and the match was off. I had already planned my lines and clipped up to where I thought I might catch a few fish. The water was very coloured after the recent heavy rain but the consensus of opinion was that there would be fish around, ready and willing to be hauled in and shown the sights. Straight in with the flat back method loaded with my usual Two Dog groundbait. A punched lump of Bacon Grill on the hook. This was repeated several times to lay down some free offerings. Normally by now we would get a few line bits and some interest if not a few fish in the net. Nothing. I was not alone, very few fish were being landed. Hours went by and absolutely nothing was happening.  I swapped to a swim feeder and maggots, both in the feeder and on the hook. Nothing. By this time I am beginning to think that someone had forgotten to bring the fish! I had seen the odd fish being caught but the pickings were slim to non-existent.

Three hours in and still no fish.This was getting silly. Then just as the enthusiasm was about to dry up completely the rod top bent over and I had a fish on. Reeling in this first fish was not exactly hard work and when it arrived it was a 1oz roach... but it was a fish! That was to be my total catch of silvers all day.

Four and a half ours in, my total was one fish and 1oz. I had a feeling I was not going to win this one. Sitting there feeling rather deflated I decided to give the sweetcorn another go. I had tried it earlier with no luck. I cast back on my original line and tightened up to the feeder when it suddenly took off! Blimey I have caught a fish and this feels like a carp. Please don't come off the hook.....  More winding and a bit more fighting tiring to keep it from heading for cover. I eventually landed a nice sized common weighing in at 5½lb (at least in my book) Okay not the biggest fish in the lake but at least I had caught one. Chuffed to bits with my catch I continued to fish corn on the feeder for the last half an hour but did not get another sniff.

It does not look as big as it was, folded into the net, but I was a 5½lb fish - the only carp I caught all day
Out of all the anglers that weighed in I came last with a total weight of 5½lb as I know at least one other did not weigh in, in my books I was not really last so I was as happy as I could be. I wish I had caught a few more but that was how it was and I was not going to let one poor outing put me off. Fish or no fish I had a great day and I got to fish a new (to me) venue. I think I will go back in the summer and give it another go. It is without doubt a very picturesque  venue and, if wast the others say who know the place is anything to go by there is normally good fishing to had.

Frylies

During the day, while experimenting with different hook baits, I did try my latest creation, frylies, that I talked about in my last post.  Although I did not get a bite, they proved their ability to survive a cast, soak and retrieve with out breaking up. I will give them another go in the new year and I will report any findings then.

I plan to get some dropshooting in on the regents on Sunday morning, if the weather holds, combined with a visit to the street-food market at Camden Lock or sample some more of the weird cuisine on offer from all over the world. Last time be were only brave enough to sample some Polish sausage, maybe it will be something more exotic on Sunday!

Ralph.     

Monday, 7 December 2015

Frylies...


Last weekend we were involved in a non-fishing event. While clearing the hall at the end, what food was left over was offered to those doing the clearing up. Even after that share out, there was still some left over. This was heading for the pigs, or worse, land fill. With this in mind, I offered to take it. The sausage rolls were nice and they got frozen for eating as did the baguettes. But there were a couple of dozen Asda mini pork pies - I am sorry, but these things would qualify the true definition of the word disgusting. There is so much soft, tasteless pastry wrapped around the marble sized pork gristle, they only just qualified as being non-vegitarian. Yuck!

I wonder if fish like pork gristle? Only one way to find out. Short of tying it on to a foot-long hair, and targeting a few big catfish, I think they will need reconstructing.

Frylies - Like boilies but fried...  


Frylie paste
After separating the gristle from the pastry, I had a small amount of gristly meat and a huge pile of soft greasy pastry.  My first thought was to process the meat into a even consistency and roll it into 12mm balls using my boilie table. In to the gun went the mixture and it squeezed out a 12 mm sausage. A small section of this was placed on the table and rolled. It made a rather friable ball.  I tried shallow frying it. It disintegrated. I tried deep frying it. It disintegrated.  Hmmmm...

Okay I need a bit more substance and a binder. I added about an equal quantity of the soft pastry crumb some eggs and a few ounces of flour that I had by me in the freezer. It was in the freezer undergoing 'purification' - killing the weevil that I had discovered in it a few months ago. I mixed the ingredients together, adding the flour until it did not stick to my hands. I tried to fry it again. This time I had success, but the thing had got bigger, not smaller as I had expected.  Hmmmm...

I tried again and this time I used my new little particle rolling table that makes 8mm balls. I shallow fried it and it came out perfect,  After letting it cool down, I dropped it in a glass of water and it floats. Thinking about it that is probably because the dead weevil flavoured flour is actually self raising. It does look like I might be on to something here - Pop-up Frylies.  I need to do a bit more experimenting but it is promising so far. I will make a batch and see how it goes. Once I have proved it works I will publish a full recipe. The little frylies start off at 8mm from the rolling table and grow slightly when fried.

Pop-up frilie

Once immersed in water, they seem to expand a little more and finish up a shade under 10mm. This is just about the size I was looking for. I don't think they will as robust as boilies but with my style of fishing the bait only needs to last the cast and a minute or two in the water.

It floats!

I like the idea of them popping up from the bottom and the short hook link will prevent it from floating away too far above the feeder. I could try a shorter hook-length, if four inches of pop up is too much. Early days, let's see how it works first. It may be a total waste of time but if it is I have still learnt something, even if it is that it does not work!


Ralph.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Cool fishing...

No, not cold but cool as in 'agreeable' According the the urban dictionary "...the word 'cool' is very relaxed, never goes out of style and people will never laugh at you for using it". I am not sure that I am comfortable using the word in that context but it is in very common usage and unlike a lot of 'street' talk it is probably the most universally understood.

Its a fish... Is it?
Having established the tone of this post, I expect you are wondering where on earth this is going and what all this has to do with my fishing adventures. Well, I will tell you. In the social environment we live in, here in the UK, most hobbies that kids of the 1950s and 60s (like me) were associated with are seen to be something that fathers and grandfathers do. To use the street vernacular, they are just not cool! To a lesser extent this applies to angling, although we have a good spread of ages participating, there is one area that seems to be considered to have Street-cred and that is urban fishing, more specifically jigging and dropshotting.

The Crazy Fish logo is a prime example of the style attached to this form of fishing
Take a look at the advertising and graphics associated with what some see as the latest craze. Lots of it is very reminiscent of the better graffiti and street-art, obviously aimed at a much younger target demographic. I can't see the fly-fisherman appreciating this kind of art. Crazy Fish is a global company that have dialled into the urban scene with vibrant logos and an in-your face website and on-line catalogue. See HERE. They are not alone. What ever you do don't look at the AGM catalogue. They sell a good selection of Crazy Fish products along with a lot of other brands of lures. and there are many many more! At this point I need to issue a warning...

Buying lures can be addictive...

Craze, fad or whatever you want to call it, it has found favour with the younger generation as well as a few of us 'old fuds' that includes me. Now I am not going to start wearing my baseball cap backwards, listening to rap music or wearing the crutch of my trousers down by my knees, any time soon... But, there is an appeal that is hard to resist. The small amount of gear required is a big plus, but for some reason the acquiring of little plastic fish are said to be addictive - can't understand that at all - Honest, but the bottom line is - it is cool!


Soft plastic fish lures

I may be a lot of things, but cool is not one of them. I have, however, been bitten by the light lure fishing bug and it will make a very welcome distraction over the next few months. I must admit that sitting in the freezing cold, wading through mud and getting wet have no real appeal to me. Urban fishing can eliminate or at least minimise all three of those disagreeable features of this time of year. Most of the time, sitting about is replaced with wandering or at the very least standing, the mud can all but be regarded as non existent and the wet... well it does not rain under bridges!

Blow Up Bridge on the Regent's Canal
Add this to the fact that there is no messy bait involved and a absolute minimum of gear. In my case, an added bonus is that I can do it all by hopping on a train at the bottom of the road and be beside the water in very short time. The docks are very close and the Regent's Canal is less than an hour away door to fishing. With so little gear, it is also easy to make this a bit of a social event too. No problem taking a shoulder bag, tiny rod and small collapsible net (in a mini stink-bag) into a pub or restaurant. No driving means I can enjoy a pint or two if I wish. For me it is a totally different experience. Sue can come along and enjoy the walk, take in the urban backdrop, study the wild flora and architecture, new and old. It is amazing how much there is to see if you open your eyes to the world around you. The story of our first visit to The Regent's can be found HERE.

Nice tiny Fox Ultron 1500 reel
The mass appeal of this type of fishing is, in no small part, due to the minimal set up costs. Full dropshot kits can be bought for well under a hundred pounds providing all you will need to get going including a good selection of end tackle and lures.


My Fox Dropshot rod - all 6 ft 6 inches of it

My set up is centred around my my joint Christmas (last) and birthday presents of a very nice Fox Rage 6ft 6inch Finesse dropshotting rod and Fox Ultron 1500 Pro reel. Although this is not the cheapest of set ups it is still not eye-wateringly expensive either. At the moment the reel is loaded with a brown coloured 13lb braid. Bright colours, such as yellow, are favoured for this type of fishing but for now I will make do with the brown as braid is not cheap stuff! I also have a shoulder bag that carries all the hooks, lures, a few tools and the small net, which hangs on the strap fixings ready for use or packed in its stink-bag. That's it. I can easily transverse London's transport network with all the gear I need.

This small net collapses down to under 2ft in total. Ideal for urban transporting
At the moment I am caring the tiny rod in it's sleeve. The commercial quivers are all too big for this little rod so I may have to make something myself. The advantage of this is at least while I am fishing the sleeve folds up and packs away in the shoulder bag.

Now all I have to do is find some time to go fishing!

Ralph.


Monday, 23 November 2015

I got that wrong...

Why was I parked at Jeff's Lake again - read on...
I spent last week thinking about fishing in colder weather. My first thoughts were to target silver fish but after discussing it on one of the fishing forums it seems that I really need some lighter gear, at the very least some finer line. By the time I had come to this conclusion it was too late for me to make any considered purchases, so I decided to forget that Idea for Sunday's trip.

I had already decided that I would fish a small pond on the corner of the complex I had not fished before. Said to be heavily stocked with a good variety of fish and to be carp-free I thought this would be a good place to have a go at catching myself a decent sized perch. With a purpose in mind I tackled up a couple of my rods and got everything ready to load the van for an early start.

Alarm went off at 05:00 AM. All the, now usual, routine followed including the ritual filling of the flask. A few more clothes than normal, including my new (Really cheap) Aldi Boots, were either worn or piled into the van. I am completely sold on the idea of using the van now. I can throw a lot of stuff in the back just in case. As you will read later, it paid off on Sunday.

Frost!
Loading the van at 05:30 AM on a Sunday morning is a case of trying to get it all in while making the minimum of noise. For some reason, most of the neighbours seem to be in bed and waking them is not conducive to good relations. Door slamming is kept to a minimum and I usually start the diesel engine just before I am about to leave. However this time I had a problem. The screen was covered in a hard frost. A lovely view of ice crystals against the dark outside. Scraping the windscreen of the car is a pain, but when you are only 5ft 8¼ inches tall (Yes it is worth mentioning the ¼inch!) the top of the Van's window is way out of reach. I had a scraper/pad fitted with a long handle which was fine until my mate Guy stood on it and made it half the length. I knew I should have got around to replacing it... Nothing for It I will have to run the engine for a bit to remove the last of it. I needn't have worried about the neighbours, by the time I left most of them had lights on...

I left rather later than usual but still managed to get to the the fishery just before the gate opened. There was a queue. Hmmm... looks like I was not the only one who fancied a spot of fishing on this cold November morning. I paid my day ticket and made my way to the car park nearest the lake. There were a couple of bivvies pitched, on the mound that retains Major's lake, and a few vehicles parked up that were covered in frost. Either these guys are very keen or they have had a row with the missus...

My chosen swim - I had the pond to myself
Out with the sack barrow, I was going to have to walk round to where I planned to fish today. After loading up I dragged the barrow up the slope and around the edge of Majors lake down the slope to Horseshoe Pond that is in a bit of a hollow. I set up at one end and got everything just how I wanted it. By now it was full daylight and I could see the sun was a misty glow behind the white cloud. The forecast was for a sunny day later. Right now it was -2ÂșC and there was frost on the ground.

Frost on the ground looking over the the other 'leg' of the pond
After clearing a few dead and floating weeds from my swim I set about sorting out my float and plumbing the depth. To my surprise it is very uneven with a bit of a hollow about ten foot out and then becoming shallower for about as far as I wanted to cast. Chuffed to bits with my subterranean mapping, I started to fish. Taking note of what others had said about perch, I was fishing just off the reeds, near a patch of lilly pads and close to the margins using prawn or maggot. After a couple of hours I had nothing not even a twitch. the water was mirror flat and as I cast and the float hit the water the rings went to the far side of the pool uninterrupted there was nothing moving and it was cold - very cold!

I tried changing my float and dotting it down with differing shot patterns - Nothing, not a sign of anything. At this point I gave up on Sargent P. and marched off back to the van to pick up a feeder rod. I made a couple of casts, All I had with me was some rather damp groundbait I had used in my 30mm ball maker for few balls to chuck in, to pre-bait the swim first thing this morning. This was not doing anything at all, and I decided to go back to the float. I was retrieving the feeder when all of a sudden it was taken by something a bit bigger than a gudgeon. The thing was nodding and thrashing about. after what seemed like ages (probably a few minutes) it calmed down and started to give up some line. I got it all the way down the pond to about six foot out. Although it had broke water at the other end of the lake, while fighting, I could not see what it was. Well, I am now a pike fisherman! I know everybody say "It was enormous" but to me it was! Just as I was contemplating what to do next (I do have forceps and stainless steel wire gloves). The pike broke or cut (?) the hook length and it was gone...

I decided to give float fishing another go. After a few casts the tip started to twitch I looked at the float as it was sitting on the lake with the surface tension of the water seamlessly merging the tip of the float. I realised the tip was quivering because my hands were shaking, along with the rest of me. I must have been sitting there, eyes transfixed on the float, letting the cold get to me. I wound the float in, cast again and the float disappeared. My was that an instant take?  No the tip of the float has parted from the body... Oh bother! (well something like that anyway)

By 11:30 AM the sun was shining on the other end of the pond - is was not shining on me!
It was now 11:30 AM and apart from the angry pike, nothing was biting. In fact I saw nothing else move in over four hours. I had now given up. It was so cold in that spot and it showed no sign of changing any time soon. I packed all the gear back onto the sack barrow and headed off back to the van.

My mate Ian had said he would meet me here. He is not one of life's early risers but by this time I was beginning to think he had made the wise choice and stayed in bed. Time to move elsewhere. The sun had started to shine and that meant it would be shining on my favourite peg. Guess where else the sun had been shining? On the way to the pond the grass path was a bit 'crunchy' now, the only place I could have done without warming up, was a muddy track that I had negotiated to get back to the van. My best impression of Billy Elliot still did not prevent me from getting covered in mud.

Just as I was standing at the back of my van filling it with the gear and my off-road sack barrow, Ian arrived. We decided to make our way back over to Jeff's Lake. As suspected the lake was bathed in sunshine. My usual choice of peg was taken (Cheek!) so we set up on the near side of the lake and got to it. By now it was midday and although the ambient  temperature was still low, the sun made it a whole lot better. 

As we arrived on Jeff's, there was a shout of "Ralphy!" from the other side of the lake, I hate that name but gritted may teeth I smiled and said hello. It was Dave and Alan, along with Sid (he's a Jack Russell) running up and down. I went over and had a chat while Ian was 'winterising' and getting set up. They too had caught a big pike and, unlike me, landed it. The bailiff re-homed it to Major's Lake, where it could join its mates... Que the Jaws theme.

A winterised Ian on his peg in a corner of the lake
Ian was float fishing and I wanted to have a go at feeder fishing using the riddled groundbait to see if it would do anything. I did catch a few carp but I am convinced that If I had used my No Dog mix (winter version of the Two Dog) I would have caught a few more. Ian was after the bream and did catch the odd skimmer. He also caught a lot of silvers on line and hooks I was advised would be too big and heavy. He was helped by a nice light float rod that is a lot more sensitive than my collection of 'broomsticks' as he calls them!

We fished and chatted until it was dark before heading off home. Although I was cold and covered in mud, I had a real good day. I learnt a lot and experienced my first pike. Okay the pike won but at least I now know what one on the hook feels like. Now, the question is will I get out again before the 12th December when I am fishing in a fun match with the guys from the Maggot Drowning forum. Let's hope the weather is kind to us.

Ralph.
 

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

New stillwater lake...

I have a very soft spot for this place as I caught my very first fish ever at The Willows Angling Centre (Ex Bax Farm). Recently under new management it has been improved greatly with a newly refurbished, well stocked tackle shop. They have just spent the past month or so refurbishing the specimen lake. The original lake was the amalgamation of two smaller lakes linked with a channel and always had the feel of just that, two lakes. The work has just been completed and they have produced this video to show just how much work has been carried out.


Once the ground has recovered, and the water does whatever water needs to do before it can be fished, I am sure it will attract anglers from far and wide. I for one will be back to bother a few fish!

Ralph.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Upper crust fishing...

No, not all that posh stuff, no ghillie and cane baskets, no tweed jackets and funny hats. I am talking about bread. Just bread, bread for hook-bait and liquidised or crumb bread as groundbait.

We have been lucky so far this year with the temperatures holding up at night as well as during the day. This has given us a chance have a really good go at targeting F1s, on the flat-backed method feeder, for reasonable bags of fish. In a match situation, this is a great tactic when aiming at weight on rod and line. It will never out-fish the pole, but at least I can keep myself catching fish. Now I more or less have the hang of it, the tactic can get boring as a pleasure technique. Using my Two Dog groundbait mix and 9mm punched bacon grill will just produce fish after fish. I never thought I would say this, but it is just too easy on a well stocked lake, especially if it is familiar water.

Horseshoe pond is tucked away in a corner of the fishery. This is the pond in June this year The flora will have died back somewhat now. The central 'finger' has three swims - ideal for my next visit
Now the weather looks like it will at last start to produce cool nights as well as days, the fish will slow down and feed less, I need to look at honing some other techniques. I fancy having a go at targeting silvers in one of the other lakes at Beaver. There is a small pond, tucked away in a corner of the complex, that is listed as carp-free. According to the fishery's literature, it is stocked with bream to over 7lb, Tench and perch to 4lb as well as roach, rudd and gudgeon.

The 'vintage' bread punch is nicely made
This pond will give me a chance to target some other species. Initially, I am going to have a go at targeting the roach and rudd. Using small bread punch tactics. I have a rather nice vintage punch with brass inserts that looks as if it will be perfect.

This punch will cut and compress the bread if used on a hard surface such as this small cutting board
I want to try some larger punched bread and see what takes the larger bait. This will be a learning curve for me, never having fished using bread before. I acquired some time ago a neat punch with a plunger I use for punching meat, the plunger is used to eject the meat. I saw it being used to punch and compress bread, which, after giving it a quick go, I can say it seems to do this very well. A small cutting board that I bought in the local pound-shop makes an ideal surface on which to punch the bread on and is small enough to take to the bank.

Neat little Lesney Bread Press really compresses the bread
I was given a lot of 'vintage' fishing tackle during the summer that included a box full of bits and pieces. The bread punch with brass heads, mentioned above, was part of that lot. Sitting in one of the compartments of the box was a small cast metal press. Moulded into the side it proclaimed to be a "Lesney bread bait press". I know that name, they made 'Matchbox' toys (cars and other vehicles). An internet search revealed they also made this little thing and packaged it in a matchbox-style box too! I suspect a lot of you already know about this little tool but I had not seen one before. Further searching revealed the instructions...


LESNEY
BREAD BAIT PRESS 
 Peel off the crust from a sliced loaf, leaving three
eighths of an inch of bread on the crust. Place bread
in the Bait Press and screw down.
 This will give you two pellets of crust ready with a
hole for your hook.
 On entering the water this will quickly swell to the
size of a cube of sugar. If a larger piece of bait is
required fold the length of crust in two before placing
in press.

 

I have transcribed the instructors above verbatim. It is interesting to see how society has changed in fifty years. Back in the 1960s, sugar cubes were commonplace. I wonder how many kids today would know what size that is? Today, measured quantities are more commonly presented in paper or plastic sachets, contributing even further to the rubbish mountain, in the name of hygiene and/or convenience. Intrigued by this little tool, I followed the instructions and it produced two very flat, rectangular pieces of bread that when placed in water slowly expanded. It appears that if the crust is left on, the bait will be slightly buoyant. This could be interesting. I feel some experimentation coming on here while I am waiting to find a gap in my, now busy, work schedule when I can go fishing to try it out for real.

Ralph.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Fishing with Bro...

Well, I did manage to drag myself out of bed, on Sunday, load the van and get on the road before 06:00 AM. A good run out of The Smoke and even the M25 was moving. I got to Beaver just as Ben (Today's host) was driving through the gate... That's handy! I followed him in and the gate closed behind me - Result! While Ben was sorting himself out, I started to set up our gear and went back to pay our day tickets - No sign of Bro...

Just as I finished setting up the phone rang...

   "Hello?"  
   "Ello Bro" 
   "Where are you?"  
   "Here!"....

I think you can guess how the rest of that went - Plonka!

I told him to turn around and waved at him. That seemed to do the job. Tim got back in his car, drove up and parked next to my van, that was obviously hard to see initially, being light Blue against the green backdrop of trees. I was wearing my camouflage pattern hat - maybe it does work after all.

Tim had missed out on all the feeder fishing and had not encountered the Two Dog ground bait first hand until now. I gave him a quick catch-up on what I know about feeder fishing, explained clipping up and showed him how to cast. I then put a hooklength on my rig, loaded the feeder and showed him how to use the push-stop hair to carry the hook-bait. Cast out and was about to say about leaving for forty seconds, if nothing happens... when the tip bent double and it was fish on, with the first cast. Tim was impressed. He then replicated the same thing  also taking a fish on his first cast. Another F1. That did the job, the look on his face says it all.

"I got one!"
The interesting thing here is that Tim has never feeder fished before in his life and yet he pulled out over thirty fish (and that is being conservative) with very little effort. He was using my Two Dog groundbait, 9mm punched Bacon Grill hair rigged to size 12 Guru MWG hook on a 4 inch, 6lb hook length. After a while he was moaning because he was not getting a chance to drink his coffee! Although we were targeting F1's Tim managed to catch a couple of bream, just to slime up my nets. He also discovered how slippery they are.

One of Tim's bream behaves itself just before it slid back into the net and was helped back into the lake
Considering the time of year we have been privy to some high night time temperatures preventing the water from cooling down too much. The fish seem to be feeding well at the moment down here in the south. For this reason we were using the full strength Two Dog mix on the 30g flat backed method feeders. I think Tim had a good day. He caught more fish than he has ever done before and from looking around the lake, more fish than anyone else too. In fact most of the others fishing the lake gave up and went home just after lunch leaving us with the lake to our selves other than a couple of children and their dad (?) dabbling away in the far corner. As far as we were concerned it proved the Two Dog mix really does work. Tim was catching as rapidly as I was on his first time out.

We packed up as the light was fading and a good, no, a great day, was had by all. There you go Tim, I told you I would not mention the fact that you broke my feeder mould and my favourite 11ft feeder rod - you know, the one I have been using all year...

Ralph

Friday, 6 November 2015

Feeding my brother...

Tim's last catch, back in April - let's see if we can do better than that on Sunday
When I started this blog and my journey down the road to become an angler, never, in a million years, would I have thought I would be sitting here writing about fishing. Let alone passing on some of the limited skills I have managed to glean, in the past year or so. Neither did I expect I would be doing it, most of the time, solo!

The original idea was to find an interest that would give me and my brother an excuse to meet up that was not a meeting of 'this thing of ours'. As it has turned out, poor old Tim has had a busy year and the last time he went fishing with me was back in April. Since then my whole fishing world has changed and so has my level of skill. No, I do not profess to be an expert, but a good few hours on the bank and four matches under my belt this summer has improved my knowledge and experience. This Sunday, I hope to pass some of that to Tim and help him catch a good bag of fish.

I plan to introduce Tim to feeder fishing. I have a couple of identical rod and reel set-ups so we can fish in the same manner. We can even use the same bait and method mix for a while, guess what that will be... Clue HERE. But once we have been fishing for a while, it will give us the opportunity to directly compare some of the other bait options.

I am really looking forward to Sunday. Even the thought of dragging myself out of bed at five o'clock in the morning has not dampened the enthusiasm, even if the act might! I have the rods made up and ready to go. Tonight I will prepare all the bait and that will be ready. We are out all day on Saturday visiting my Godson and his wife, who has just give birth to a baby boy. Do you think, at two weeks old, he will be a bit young for a fishing rod? I suspect we will not be home until late so I need to have everything ready to go tonight.

Not happy

When will I ever learn? Tempted by the prospect of saving a few pennies and not having to make the nine-mile round trip to my local tackle shop I decided to buy some hooks from an internet supplier. Next day delivery was offered and this was Monday. It is now Friday and still no hooks. I wanted then earlier in the week so I could spend a couple of nights tying hook lengths. I know I was going to visit the tackle shop today to get some bait anyway and did not want to make a double trip. Now I have left myself tight for time, exactly what I was trying to avoid...

...Door bell ringing... Guess what? Just as I start to bemoan my predicament, the hooks have arrived. Shipping was 48 hour signed for. So that means they should have been here Wednesday or Thursday. I really wish paranoid suppliers would not send stuff signed for, there is absolutely no need for it when the item value is this small and all it seems to do is hold everything up. Unless I have a couple of weeks spare I will not be going down this route again. There are some suppliers that are brilliant and I have mentioned one by name in the past that I cannot fault, but there are a lot of small 'widget' businesses out there that seem to make it hard, both for themselves and ME!

Now I am off to tie a bundle of hook lengths, and sort out the rest of the gear before making a trip to my local tackle shop for some friendly chat and a chance increase their turnover for the day... I wonder if they have had their Preston order in yet?

Ralph. 
      

Monday, 2 November 2015

No Dogs at Beaver - Except Toby!

Autumn colour reflects in Jeff's Lake as I look out over my rod tip
Toby? He is the owners black Labrador who takes great delight in creeping up on the paying customers and surprising them - we all love Toby... Honest!

The usual early start was rewarded by an early entrance to the fishery. I was mindful that the clocks going back, the weekend before, meant the the evenings would be darker sooner but to our advantage, the mornings would be lighter too. No matter what time I have arrived at the fishery, I have never been at the front of the queue, today there was no queue. As I turned off the A22, I could see the time controlled, electricity operated gate was already open. It turned out that the gate had not been reset to take account of the time change as the guy who knows how to do it was on holiday...

06:46 and parked up
That's handy! I drove in to find the office open and the first line of defence manned by Ben, our new (additional) full-time fishery officer, greeting all comers with his usual warm welcome.  I paid the day ticket fee and headed for my favoured spot on Jeff's lake. It was just light, the mist hanging over the lake and there was not a soul about. I had made up my rods the night before and all I needed to do was set up my chair, bait waiter and landing net etc. and I was fishing by 07:00.

I was trying out my latest groundbait method mix. My trusty Two Dog mix has been an absolute winner all year enabling me to catch lots of fish at every session. Okay, I am not catching record amounts but I am catching enough to hold a reasonable position in the friendly matches held at Beaver during the warmer months. Considering I have only been fishing a little over a year I am happy with that result. I am constantly being asked how I am catching so many fish by others on the lake and all I can say is that it must be down to my bait/method mix combination.

My Two Dog mix is fortified with ground up dog biscuit (Wagg) and hot dog sausages - hence Two Dog. As the weather gets cooler, I am told I need to feed less as the fish do not feed as vigorously as they do in the warmer periods. This all sounds reasonable. I am targeting carp in Jeff's lake, mainly F1s and these do not slow down their feeding as much as other fish which is why the fisheries love them. Nevertheless, it seemed reasonable to cut down the amount of food in the mix and see what happens. I have already talked about my No Dog groundbait mix HERE. In essence, it is a stripped down version of the Two Dog mix with the meat and dog biscuit stripped out and some peeper added to increase the attractive qualities of the turmeric.

The revised recipe is shown below but the breadcrumb/biscuit mix can be anything that will not become bound together when it gets wet.
 

My No Dog Groundbait Recipe

  • 975g Breadcrumb
  • 975g Rich Tea biscuits
  • 50g Turmeric powder 
  • 2-3g Finely ground black pepper

Using my trusty 11ft feeder rod and small, 30g flat-backed method feeder I made a couple of casts without a hooklength attached to establish where I wanted to clip up to. I had picked three markers on the opposite bank. One of these was my favoured life belt I have mentioned before. I also had a couple of other trees earmarked as markers for two other lines. Now I was ready to fish.
One of a couple of mirror carp caught during the session
Sticking with my usual set up of a four inch hooklength, hair rigged to a push stop (or what ever you call them depending on the make!) on an NWM size 12 hook. I have also found some really small tube to hold the hair in position on the hook. I know I could just add more turns to the knotless-knot but I think this is a more elegant way of doing it as I am using fairly heavy line (6 or 8lb) and I do not risk catching the line on the point of the hook, creating a week point or dulling the point on the hook. I had fun working out just how to get a tiny piece of silicone tube onto the hook. Getting it on the line was much easier than I thought it would be as it just slides through with little or no resistance. I found the way to get it on the hood is not to try and thread it on as this results in the hook point piercing the tubing.

The best way I found to do it is to use the push stop needle, which has a blunt point- if you see what I mean, that will push its way through the tubing, after it has been fitted on the line. The line can be pulled away from the needle opening up a gap into which the hook can be passed through easily without causing any damage to the line, hook point or tube. The other advantage of using this method is that the hair can be set to length and the tubing will hold it in place while the knot is being tied.

Tackle aside, I rigged a 9mm thick, 9mm diameter punched piece of bacon grill on the hair and placed it in the bottom of the feeder mould, Filled the feeder with my new 'lean' groundbait and pushed the feeder into the mould. after releasing it I then placed a small anount of the mix into the mould and applied the ready loaded feeder to the mould again, pressing it in firmly, to add a second skin of groundbait to cover the hook bait.

...and here's another mirror, they really fight hard, I thought I had hooked something much bigger!
A nice controlled flick and the feeder plopped into the lake bang on target - I am getting better at this as time goes on. It is all about getting out there and trying over and over again until it becomes natural. It is not there yet, but I am getting there slowly and each outing I get a little more consistent. I was expecting to get a few feeder loads out before I got any action but to my complete surprise, I had a fish on after about 20 seconds. My two or three empty feeder casts while I was checking my ranging must have got the fish interested. Three more casts, three more bites, two of which I landed.

I was fishing the lifebelt line and it was paying off. Then, someone else arrived and took the peg opposite me right under the lifebelt. Not wanting to cast at another angler when there was plenty of space I made a few more rapid casts to lay down some groundbait and moved to another line.

My plan was to have a few chucks at the original spot when the bloke opposite went for a break during the day or at lunch. As It happened, I was fishing my other two lines perfectly happily all day pulling fish out at a fair old rate and did not get back to that line until I noticed the bloke opposite was packing up early and going home. By this time I had run out of my experimental no-meat groundbait mix and was back on the original Two Dog mix. Although the new mix was working. reverting back to the original mix really showed a marked difference, fish were on it straight away and the catch rate increased almost immediately. I think this may be because although it was the 1st November, it was still not that cold. I moved back to the original line and almost as soon as the feeder landed I was getting a bite and landing one fish after another. It will be interesting to see how it goes as the weather cools down even further. I am back at Beaver next Sunday as a planned trip to Ironbridge has been cancelled due to pressure of work, so by Sunday I will be glad of the break. You never know, I might have some company as my brother is threatening to come. Maybe I will be able to get him catching his first good bag of fish.

The clean-up crew are not far away as the sun starts to go down behind the trees
Another great day fishing for me. I left just as it was starting to get dark so I had a good few hours of fun and proved that although the lean version of my groundbait worked, the full bodied meaty version is still getting the fish excited. 

Ralph    

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Dropshotting the Regent's

Back in November last year, The Angling Times ran a short article about urban fishing in London using the Oyster card to get around. Travelling around London using public transport has never been easier. It is almost impossible to park in London without incurring ridiculous parking charges or even worse getting a fine or towed away. That is without all the hassle of battling with London's everlasting traffic. London is a twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week city. Even on a Sunday, the place is buzzing.

Sunday morning and the sun is just about to show itself
As the clocks went back on Sunday morning (02:00 AM) I decided to take advantage of the extra hour and drag myself out of bed and make an effort to catch an early train into town. Sue, foolishly, made the decision to come along too. Our aim was to get to Camden Town and, initially, head east from there towards Kings Cross.

The alarm went off at 05:30 Sunday morning. It is at these times when the thought of going fishing does not sound as appealing as it did the night before. Telling ourselves it will be worth it when we get there, we dragged ourselves out of bed, and made it out of the house in time to walk to the station and catch the 07:12 to London Bridge. Bearing in mind this is Sunday morning - the train was packed! I was amazed to see the crowds of people heading down the tunnel that leads to the way out, and Underground station.

Deserted streets of Camden. The side of the building in the centre of the picture shows that
street 'art is not just confined to our current times.
The sign reads: "You save money by shopping at Boots chemists
We made it through tunnel and onto the Northern Line tube to Camden Town. Barely an hour after leaving home we were standing outside the station in the empty streets of Camden Town looking at the street art, old and new.

Street art of the highest standard, just around the corner from the tube station
A short walk from the station heading North along any of the roads that radiate in that direction will take you to the canal. We walked along Kentish Town Road until we crossed the canal and walked down the steps to the towpath. It is now getting on for 08:00 and the towpath is deserted.

Time to get my rod set up. I bought my rod and reel earlier in the year with the proceeds of a Christmas/birthday fund-raising scheme, just as I used to do when I was a kid - it worked! I also bought a couple of packs of dropshotting rigs that came with a few small plastic lures.

At the time it was almost impossible to get hold of the yellow braid so I ended up with a brown coloured line.Now I needed some jig heads. Not knowing where to start with jigging tackle, I visited to my local tackle shop and bought a few bits and pieces. They have a huge collection of course fishing tackle but are a bit limited on dropshotting/jigging gear. The smallest jig heads I could find were 10g. I had hopped to find some smaller ones but they were going to be better than nothing, or so I thought. I also bought a few soft plastic lures - well you can't not, can you?

I had pre-rigged the the new lures with the jig heads the night before, and fitted them with a wire trace just in case I hooked a pike! These I mounted on a wine cork to protect the points and prevent them hooking up with anything in my bag of minimal tackle.

The jig heads were far too heavy but they were all I had
I also fitted a quick-release clip to the end of the line onto which I would be able to attach my pre-made trace/jig rig. I attempted a few casts just to get the feel of the ultra-light rod and found it was more a case of flicking it out rather than a full blown cast. the retrieve was interesting to say the least. The soft plastic lure fell like a stone, attached to that enormous weight and simply collected a hook-full of weed. I persevered but I was getting nothing, although I was managing to put it where I wanted it to go without too much trouble. I tried open water and under the bridges but didn't even get a knock, that I could feel.

Best I could do was to drag up some weed
By now I had resigned myself to the fact that it was going to be most unlikely that I would catch anything. This did not bother me, I just wanted to get some experience. By now the sun had come out to play and the nip in the air had been replaced with the warm feel of the sun on our backs making distinct shadows on the towpath.

At this point we were lucky to catch our shadow, but no fish
We continued to walk along the towpath taking in the sights and having a jig between the covering of weed that seemed to be covering the whole canal in places. The wildlife seemed to be enjoying it and curious to see if we had brought any food.

Egyptian geese looking for free handouts - sorry mate no edible bait today!
Arriving at Kings cross we sat on the steps that lead to the old, now filled in basin to change the tackle. it was obvious to me that the jig heads I had bought were totally wrong for what I was attempting to do. I removed my end tackle and replaced it with a dropshot rig. Now without the advantage of using the jigging gear to find the fish I was fishing blind. At this point a young lad appeared, rod in hand and started to fish.

I went over and spoke to him and he turned out to be a very friendly young man, by the name of Tom who was also doing a spot of dropshotting. He new exactly what he was doing and and was happy to show me where I was going wrong. He confirmed the jig heads I was attempting to use were far too heavy and my lures were all wrong too. He was fishing with a 2 or 3g flexible jigging head arrangement that looked far superior to my cumbersome rig I had been chucking around earlier. He also very kindly gave me a couple of small 50mm shads that looked far more like what should be using on my rig. He offered me a smaller jig head but I declined, not wanting to take advantage. Just a few minutes talking to someone on the bank is worth hours of reading and watching videos - you can't beat it.

Just to prove there are fish in the canal Tom sent me a picture of one of the perch he managed to catch that day
We decided to walk back to Camden market and visit the street food stalls selling all kinds of food from around the world. Stopping off along the way to have a dabble with the dropshotting gear. No luck but it was fun trying. I packed the rod away and we hurried off to sample some of the street food. Staying moderately cautious, we opted for some Polish sausage in a roll with onions. We made the right choice, it tasted every bit as good as it smelt.

Dropshotting near one of the bridges - still no luck but I am getting some experience
After polishing off the grub, we set off towards Paddington. With the gear packed away, knowing I really needed some different jig heads and shads, I was happy to just explore as much of the canal as we could. It was a fine day and by now the towpath was getting busy with walkers joggers and cyclists. I do wonder how many of the cyclists end up in the canal...

Early afternoon and the place comes to life with people
We walked away from the market now heading West. The route takes you through Regent's Park and slices through London Zoo. there are lots of potential fishing spots all the way along but at this time of day the canal is full of boats chugging their way along. I think it is a case of getting a few hours in early and then moving to the ends of the canal, where is does not seem to be so busy. Once we arrived at Paddington Basin we walked over to the station and hopped on a train back to kings cross so we could start exploring the Eastern section beyond Kings Cross.

Long stretches of the canal are covered in weed
As we headed away from Kings cross towards Islington and Hackney it was starting to cloud over and the temperature dropped. our feet were starting to complain so as we approached the Kingsland Road we decided to leave the canal and head home.
Well, we didn't catch anything but we had a very enjoyable day. I learnt an awful lot and got the chance to experience a side of London I have not visited before. Now I have a better idea of what I need, next time I will take a selection of smaller jig-heads and shads so next tome I can catch a perch like Toms! I also have a much better idea of the layout and where I will be fishing next time.

Ralph.