Saturday, 30 July 2016

A-Maze-ing!

Last time I fished this side of the lake - Maze Lake can be a bit bleak in the winter...
It has been well over a year since I last went purely float fishing. Like most of us, my first encounter with rod and line was with a float rod and a waggler. There was not much fineness about the whole endeavour. My rod had been described as a 'bit of a broomstick', The reel had been pre-loaded with 12lb line and my hook lengths were about three feet long because that is how they came in the packet.

Even so, I did manage to catch fish and actually land them. Most of the fish I caught were small silvers and about half a dozen in a session, but I was happy and catching the odd skimmer/bream was an event. By June, last year, I had been invited to join in one of the friendly matches at Beaver Fishery. I had said from from day one of my journey that I was not interested in match fishing and all I was intending to do was spend a few hours on the bank, catching fish for pleasure.

Well... I am still not interested, in serious match fishing. I am not the most competitive person ever to cast a rod. The only sports I have had anything to do with (darts and snooker) usually involve beer and were pursued as an excuse for a pint, as we have no got a dog (Just taking the dog for a pint... er... I mean walk, Dear). Friendly matches are different, they are great fun and I have learnt a lot from talking to the guys and trying new techniques. I have even managed not to be last - so far.

I discovered that I could catch a whole lot more fish with a method feeder and they were a lot bigger than the silvers I had caught on my waggler. I had tried using a feeder rod fairly soon after taking up fishing but spent most of the time losing feeders in trees and bushes. It was not until I got to my first match that I had even used one before. The guy in the tackle shop said that would be the way to go. Armed with my feeder rod and my first batch of Two Dog groundbait to use as a feeder mix, I was off. From that day on I was moving further and further away from my initial intention and now with more kit than I know what to do with the 'pleasure' was in danger of becoming a chore.

Lush with vegetation Maze Lake looks a bit more inviting this time of year
Yesterday I decided to go fishing with just a float rod and a minimum of  tackle. My only concession to that was to pack a spare rod and reel in case something went wrong with the particular combination I had chosen to use. Minimal kit meant I could take the car; it was just like turning the clock back to those early visits to Bax Farm (Now The Willows Angling Centre) and Beaver Fishery, nearly two years ago.

The alarm went off at the usual time and because I had so little gear to load I was ready in half the time it usually takes. I twiddled my thumbs for a bit before leaving, took a leisurely drive down to Beaver and was still there fifteen minutes early.

After the usual pleasantries were exchanged - me handing over my ten quid and a couple of 'ello mates' it was off to Maze Lake to claim my favoured peg. By 07:20 I was fishing. Result!

I had pre-rigged my vintage rod that my mate Dave had given me. This I paired with a modern fixed spool reel loaded with 6lb line. I did not want to go too light as there are some bigger fish in this lake. Officially the carp are no bigger then 10lb but I know for a fact some are a lot bigger than that. There is a seventeen pounder that got put back and now the bailiff is offering a prize to anyone who can catch it. I also had a spool of 4lb line with me in case the heaver line became problematic.

 As well as the usual bait, maggots, sweetcorn, bread and bacon grill, I had a packet of Tesco 'Everyday' frozen prawns I was hoping to tempt a perch to take my hook. I also had an ice cream tub full of damp groundbait that had been enhanced with all sorts of free offerings. This was for feeding my swims and hopefully hold some fish in my peg.

Bait selection - feed and hook bait
I started fishing with a smallish (size 18) hook and a single maggot. I was using one of those Drennan Glow Tip Antenna floats. I like the idea of these floats as the hooped colour scheme helps to show lift bites as well as the normal dip indication. I have only used these floats a hand full of times as I have not done much float fishing at all over the past year or so. Every time I have used these floats I have lost the antenna as it tends to part company with the body after a while. Although it is easy enough to make a new antenna it is not really very good. I must write to Drennan and tell them about it.
Drennan Glow Tip Antenna float
I digress. For a good hour or so nothing was happening. I changed depth, hook size and bait but still nothing was happening. I was just about to think about changing the line for the lighter stuff when the float tip disappeared. At Last a fish! as I struck I could feel that frantic vibration of a very small fish. I was correct, the first of about fifty small silvers was about to be hauled out of the water and unhooked. For the next few hours all I could catch was small roach and rudd. I thought once I started catching the smaller fish, the bigger ones, would follow. Apart from a couple of slightly larger fish,  maybe a two or three ounces, the size was not increasing by any significant amount.

The biggest rudd of the day - I still enjoy catching the little fellows
A change of hook size to a larger one and using some different bait paid off and I landed several skimmers/bream. One of these fish jumped clear of the water, nodded and thrashed for a bit before doing the usual thing of laying on its side resigned to the fact that it was going to be landed. The fishing was getting easier. Mainly roach rudd and bream, nothing overly large but some of the bream were of a decent size. I must have had getting on for ten pounds of roach/rudd in a few hours, non of them of any size that would turn a head.

By now I was doing far better than I have ever done on a waggler before. In the past I had caught the odd bream, today I was catching them one after the other. Although I am far from an expert at any of this fishing lark, I must be getting better at it. Balling in the ground bait initially and topping it up from time to time seemed to work well but eventually attracted the wrong type of attention.

Now look you lot, go and find somewhere else to play... Please!
Maze Lake is fairly shallow which means an upended swan can easily reach the bottom and eat my free offering. Even a good talking to only resulted in a 'make me' sort of look and a hiss. These guys are extremely tame even with young'ens in tow. They will feed from your hand, if you are brave enough, although that does mean they stick around longer. Personally I was happy to stop fishing for ten minutes and watch the swans. The signets make a sort of soft whistling noise that is only audible at close range and I had no idea that made such a sound.

A small piece of prawn hook bait
Once the swans made there way off to pastures new, it was back to the fishing. Prawns. By now the prawns had defrosted. It was at this stage in the proceedings that I realised they were "in a protective ice glaze". I assume this claptrap is just an excuse for making weight. I must get a packet and investigate further. Either way at just over £2.00 a packet they are not overly expensive. In fact, next time I will take half a pack which, for me will be plenty.

I chopped a few up using my tackle scissors. A pair of those multi-bladed scissors that are intended for chopping up live worms (yuck!) would be useful here. I am not too bothered about chopping up ready-cooked prawns, but causing mass carnage to a group of unsuspecting worms is a totally different thing...

This bream thinks he's a perch and has been eating Mr stripe's bait. That will teach it...
A handful of chopped prawn was introduced into the swim and the bait was cast into the area. A few seconds later and the float tip disappeared in one motion. I had caught something!   The rod tip bent over and with expectation I played the fish until it was ready to surface. How big is this, I am thinking to myself. This would have been a good sized perch, if it was not for that fact it was a bream. Trust me to find a bream with expensive taste.

Well, at least it is a perch
I cast again and once the float had settled I catapulted in a few bits of chopped prawn. it was not long before the float was on the move, first up, then sideways. I lifted the rod to set the hook and I got it. Probably one of the smallest perch in the lake but at least it was a perch. A few more followed but non of them would have made much of a meal for a bigger perch. Just as I was thinking this was getting boring, the float took of and the rod took on a bend unseen in my time as custodian of this very nice old length of carbon fibre. Just as I was wondering how to play this it snapped back and the fish was gone. The four pound hook length had snapped and whatever it was had gone.

Having given up on the perch I decided to put a hair rigged hook length on with a meat stop. I had a lot of meat with me chopped up into various size cubes and punched into several sized 'pellets'. Having had lots of success with meat on the feeder as hook bait, I had never caught anything on it using a waggler. That changed and I was catching bream easily. At this point I was still using the same Drennan float. Then with a ping the hook link snapped and the rig came home by air! It was at this point I noticed the tip had gone. It had not snapped, simply pulled out of its socket. Although I had another float, time was now marching on and I had another target in mind.

That small red dot is the tip of the float
As I was fishing, I had noticed what looked like a fairly nice sized carp patrolling the margin and right across my peg not a foot from the edge and only just below the surface. I had dropped a baited hook right in front of it a couple of times but to no avail. This was the ideal opportunity to change tackle and see if I could possibly catch it. I replaced the broken float with a pre loaded crystal waggler and shot it down so it was just showing above the surface. I fitted a new short hook length with hair and meat stop as before and set the depth to about 15in. While I was doing this I had been feeding the margin with some of the chopped bacon grill that, by this time, was  crunchy and oozing oil as it had been exposed to the mild sun all day. There were signs of activity. I flicked the float down the margin and fed over it. as the bait was off the bottom, the float was travelling my way with the movement of water through the lake. I did this a couple of times and got nothing. I shortened the depth by about 3in and tried again. That was looking better I was getting some indications, no bites but something was interested. Then with a big take the drag screamed off and I was on a big (for me) fish. I slowly tightened the drag and stopped the fish from diving into the undergrowth as I played the fish it showed itself and I had caught the fish I had targeted. Well, a dog with two tails could not have been happier. Okay not the biggest fish in the lake but going a couple ounces over 6lb was fine by me.

Gotcha!  Nobody was more surprised than me, except maybe the fish
By now it was well after 6 o'clock and as the gate closes at 7 o'clock. I needed to think about packing up. As I had not been fishing with much gear today I had time for that one last cast. I rebated the hair and cast again, not expecting much. Within seconds I was into another fish. This time it was a fair sized bream that gave a good account of itself. Anyone who says bream don't fight had not met this one. Right to the net it was determined to be somewhere else but eventually I got it on the bank and unhooked it. As I was unhooking it there was a little guy with his mum and dad, watching the proceedings. He had been fishing with his dad, and was saying "Look Dad, big fish". He was really excited so I asked him if he wanted to return it to the lake in the landing net. He did, with huge enthusiasm.

That was it for the day, and what a day. A minimum of tackle, a few different baits and I was fishing all day. I may not be the worlds greatest angler but I had one of the best days out I have had in a long time. Limiting the gear I take with me is the way to go. I can't wait to do it again.

Next week I will be back at Beaver for the August match. I had to miss the July event as I had to work so I am looking forward to trying not to come last!

Ralph.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Me and a float rod...

Last time out things got a little too complicated; rods and poles all over the place. I had got to the point where tackle was taking over and I was not enjoying my fishing.

It was back in April last year that I last had a session on the waggler, fishing Maze lake. It is definitely time to get some sanity back into my fishing. Shortly after that trip I had discovered method feeder fishing and got involved in fishing the friendly matches at Beaver. I have spent most of the past year feeder fishing and playing around with a spot of pole fishing to the total exclusion of the waggler. Time to strip back to the basics and get fishing again.

Vintage rod has great looks...
A while ago I had been talking with some guys on one of the fishing forums about the fact that I had very little experience with older fishing gear. All my tackle being new, relatively cheap kit. A very kind chap who goes by the name of DaveTheFish offered to pass on  some old rods for me to try. One of these is a very nice 12ft Milo, Deep Blue, Match rod. I have tried this rod before but that was a bit half hearted attempt at catching a perch. See THIS POST, just over half way down. My plan is to spend the day fishing with this rod and a waggler on Maze lake. Although I will take a few different hook-baits, I intend to use mainly maggots.

The intention is to use just one rod, but I will have a spare in the car just in case something goes wrong. Yes, I am taking the car, I have got all the relevant permissions required to carry maggots and smelly nets in Sue's car.

Keeping it simple means I only have to take minimal kit. Even so the list is reasonably long but I can't see how I can make it any less. The list is as follows: My chair, bait waiter, bait, table, unhooking mat, landing net and handle, rod(s), reel, bank stick, rod rest and my new small tackle bag (a bargain from Aldi) full of all the tackle I will need for the day. Let's hope I have not forgotten anything. Now the gear is sitting there, in the hall, ready to be packed into the car in the morning. I have to keep checking that I have got everything. Roll on tomorrow!

Ralph.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Too much stuff going on...

Majors lake from the other side...
I have fished Major's Lake at Beaver Fishery several times and had varying success. I first fished it from the front with Tim back in the day when we had very little tackle and even less experience. That day we had very few fish and they were all in the tiddler* category. Subsequent visits had also been in the 'few things to brag about' league. That was until recently when I discovered a part of the lake I had not fished before, on the bank between Major's and Maze lakes. I had a great day there on my own and an even better day when I went with Duncan. Buoyed with enthusiasm for this lake, I decided to have a go around the other side. I selected a swim that had great potential in my eyes. A couple of patches of lilly pads  and lots of overhanging bushes crying out for offerings of tackle.

Preston over/under pole rests
There were several things I wanted to try out and I had loaded the van with all sorts of rods and poles. Sometimes I think taking the van is a bad idea. I could put every bit of fishing gear I own in the back and still have plenty of space left over. Restricted carrying space might concentrate the mind somewhat and stop me packing so much gear.  I really enjoy my pleasure fishing from a nice comfortable chair rather than perched upon my box. This is fine in a match situation and is not for such a long period. Fishing from a nice comfy chair is not so good for pole fishing, although some people don't seem to find it a problem.

Whilst discussing it on the Maggot Drowning forum, the Preston over/under gripper pole rests were mentioned and a fellow member offered to sell me a pair. These I had with me and though I would use them with the long Maver pole to fish the edges of the lilly pads. I also wanted to try feeding my swim to encourage fish in or keep any that happened to be there. This is on top of putting out a sleeper rod to fish the far margin, do a spot of feeder fishing and try out the margins with my shorter Maver Abyss X. You see what I mean about too much stuff?  Although I had a twelve hour session to fill it is amazing how quickly the time can pass.

First of all I wanted to have a go at feeding my swim. Before I did anything else I balled out a few tennis ball sized balls of goodies. This was made up of all sorts of goodies including breadcrumb, ground biscuit ground as well as boiled whole birdseed, hemp, corn, meat, dog biscuit and much more.

While that was sitting there I put out a carp rod with chod-rigged boilie, sitting close to the bank in front of some reeds. I then sent out a few small balls of the feed just to make some attractant. The rod was set up on a pair of banksticks and buzzer, just waiting for that screaming bite.

Now for the main event. I set my chair up with the over/under cups fitted and assembled my pole. What I had not realised was just how far out those lilly pads were. I had expected to get to them easily but with the pole out using all sections (14.5m) I was still just short. At that distance, my pole is a real handful on my box and almost impossible to control from my comfortable seated position. Although the cups held the pole perfectly, shipping it in and out was a real nightmare. I gave up on the 'real' poles and put them back in the van.  By now a  few hours had passed and I had nothing on the carp rod, not even a line-bite.

The one and only fish of the morning
I thought I would try fishing over the fed areas using my most successful method, the feeder. Usually I would use the feeder to build a cover of groundbait and be catching after a couple of casts. With all that groundbait already there, this should have been simple. Cast after cast produced nothing and then just as I was about to give up the tip swung around and I had caught a fish - four and a half hours into the session. It turned out to be a nice size female tench. That was to be the only fish that I caught from Major's Lake. I tried the pellet waggler and even my Hippo was drawing a blank. By lunchtime I decided this spot was not for me and retreated to the safety of Jeff's Lake.

I put the made up rods and gear in the back of the van and decamped lock stock and barrel. I thought about hitting The Pond (Eden Pond) but ran into Andy (the bailiff) on the way around and he said there were a couple or three people fishing there already. Eden is a small pond. Apart from the fact that the best swims were probably already taken, I did not want to spoil their day by me turning up and muscling in on their action. So it was off to Jeff's Lake.

A map of the complex at Beaver Fishery
1-Snipe Lake, 2-Tuscany Lake, 3-Jeff's Lake, 4 Major's Lake, 5-Maze Lake, 6-Moat Farm, Pond,
7-Daughter's, 8-Eden pond, 9-Jounior's Lake, 10-Horseshoe Pond
In the map above I was parked in the parking right at the top of the map by Daughter's Lake (9) . Major's Lake (10) is not that far from Jeff's Lake (3) but the road takes the scenic route around the fishery, as can be seen. I like the fact that it is possible to drive around the fishery on hard surfaces all year round with most lakes having parking adjacent to at least a few pegs making it ideal for anyone with a disability or mobility issues.

The back of the lake where I like to fish from had been taken by some school kids and their teachers. I assume this was an end of year treat. However, this had obviously gone pear-shaped as they were packing up to leave.  Andy had told me the teacher had paid him and said that one of the kids was misbehaving so the trip was cancelled and they were off back to school.

I parked a safe distance away, eating my pack lunch, and watched the unhelpful and rude kids do nothing but moan as the teachers who were collecting the gear together. As I got to the parking they were just leaving and one of the kids was walking around the car to get in. He looked at me and I asked if he had caught anything "Yeah." came the reply "That's good, did you have a nice time?" I asked. "Nah" came the reply and with that he got in the car and slammed the door. They drove off leaving me wondering if all mid-teens are monosyllabic?  I could now get on with the serious task in hand and attempt to catch some fish.

What a surprise, an F1 on the Two Dog...
Just to get some fish on the bank, it was out with the feeder and the Two Dog ground bait feeder mix. First cast, a fish, and another, and another. Okay that has proved I can still catch 'em but it can get very boring. I then tried a cage feeder stuffed with groundbait and maggots, dead maggot on the hook. I use a slightly different approach with this type of feeder. I use a longer hooklength of 12-15 inches and give the feeder 30 seconds or so to discharge its contents, the maggots help this on its way. I then pull the feeder back another 12 inches or so, hopefully leaving the hook bait sitting on top of the pile. Well, that's theory, but in this case the fish are intercepting it on the way down. In fact the fish were going after anything that moved. I had a few F1s using this method but it was also getting boring.

Ideal conditions for a spot of pellet waggling. Out with the pellet waggler rod. Feeding 6mm pellets, and dropping the float on top, it took a few goes to get the depth just right and then  the F1s were churning the water and I could pull them out one after the other every few seconds. I could have caught hundreds of pounds of them. The only problem with all this is that it gets mechanical. Great for match fishing but very quickly gets monotonous.

Great fun at last. try landing a feisty F1 on light gear and thin elastic with no puller
Time for something different. I had my Hippo with me so it was time for some fun. It is really suited to silvers and worked wonders rooting out the small perch on Major's a few weeks ago. Here I was going to try it using a selection of hook bait and a fine 8-10 solid elastic. I knew I was most likely to catch the F1's but they would be fun to play and eventually land. This I did for a while working off the bottom, if I could get the bait down that far. I did manage it a few times and actually caught a small bream (large skimmer?) by fishing with bread punch and no feed.

It took a while to get in, but when it gave up it just played dead, like bream do
Fishing off the bottom was a waist of time and besides every time the fish throw a hook it would retract to the pole-tip and proceed to tie itself in knots any boy scout would be proud of. How does it do that? I changed rigs to a Drennan Crystal Dibber for fishing high in the water. With this on the Hippo, I had a good few hours fun experimenting with different hook baits and depths. It did not seem to matter what I used in the way of hook size and bait combination I could catch something on almost anything.

I had a large hook on for bread and I thought as some of my maggots, that I had been keeping for the past three weeks or so, had started to turn in the warm sunshine, I would give one a go. I impaled a caster on the large hook, just to see what would happen. It did not take long for another F1 to hitch a ride to the surface and into my landing net. It caught a fish, almost straight away. I think I could have used a bent pin and cotton tied to a stick and so long as there was something on the pin as bait I would have caught a fish. I had great fun in the end and was absolutely ready to pack up when a fish threw the hook again and the little dibber, line and shot ended up wrapped around the tip.

Time to go home, methinks
Next time I am going to go completely the opposite way and go light. Just a couple of old float rods given to me by a friend and some wagglers, a few slices of bread and a pint of maggot. I am going to spend a day float fishing. Today I had a van-load of gear, a big plan and it turned out that the best fishing was done with a £10 Tele-Pole fitted with a cheap bit of elastic.

KISS - Keep It Simple Stupid.

Ralph.



* Did you know?
According to Wikipedia, Tiddler can refer to: 
      A small fish
      A small motorcycle, similar to a moped but with a bigger engine
      Also, Tiddly, a barbershop