Monday, 26 March 2018

At last FISH!

Maze Lake is just starting to come to life
After last weeks disaster I decided to make the best of what looks like it will be the last good day for a week or so down here in the south, and pay a visit to my favourite Fishery. Yes, I know, some of you think I should get around a bit more but I like the fact that Beaver Fishery is set in woodland and has plenty of well maintained water to dangle a line. What's more the guys there are constantly up-grading the venue by refurbishing the swims, keeping the vegetation under control, restocking and clearing out the lakes/ponds.

Today, I made the decision to leave a little later than I would do normally - late night, last night! I live about 100yds inside London's South Circular Road, meaning that trying to go anywhere outside it is a complete nightmare any time between 06:00 and 09:00. Outside this time, it is just plain bad. I left just after 09:00 and joined the heavy, but moving, traffic on my way to the other road with a reputation for being a pain; The London Orbital better known as the M25. In reality, the M25 is nowhere near as much hassle as its bad press may suggest. That is unless you had intended to travel past junction 8 in an anticlockwise direction today - it was closed for most of the day while the emergency services dealt with a fuel spill after an accident in the early hours. Luckily, my journey along the M25 ended at junction 6 for Godstone. Enough waffling, the travelling was not bad at all and the journey only took about ten minutes longer than leaving home at 06:00.

Another pike!
The problem with arriving at 10:00 instead of 07:00, apart from the obvious loss of fishing time, is that all the best swims can be taken. Today was no exception and my first and second choice of swim was indeed occupied, as was my third and forth! I decided to have a go at the back of Maze Lake, a place I have been lucky in the past. Today it was very slow. I spent the first couple of hours float fishing. I tried all sorts of bait but got nowhere. Others in my view were not getting anywhere either and some packed up and went home. I switched to a method feeder and made a long cast over to where somebody had been fishing earlier in the hope that there might be some bait laying there attracting some fish. Nothing, not a sniff. After three or four casts into the same spot I decided it was a waste of time and began a fairly brisk retrieve of my feeder. About halfway back it stopped dead solid and I assumed I had snagged on some submerged undergrowth. Then it started to move. This was no snag. A fairly lively fight ensued and when the fish condescend show itself it turned out to be a pike. My second pike ever and it was just as surprised as me.

Rod-rest-reeds - Handy
I had hooked it in the lip and it did not manage to bite through my hook length meaning I was able to net it and unhooked it successfully. This was not as big as the one I caught previously on Majors Lake back in January, but I guess it was around the five pound mark. With the pike rested in the net and returned from whence it came, at least I had avoided a blank. By now it was getting on for lunchtime and I continued with the feeder in the vain hope of finding a carp or bream to come and play, while I was devouring my sandwiches. All this was made harder by the fact that I had left all my bank sticks behind and having to be a bit creative. I found a suitable bunch of reed stalks and grass that was perfect for resting the rod in at a convenient angle to get a slight bend in the quiver tip.

Even the Two Dog method feeder mix was not tempting any fish to have a sniff, let alone a bite. I think all the fish were around the other side of the lake. Maze is a snake-lake with plenty of places for the fish to hide, especially when there is hardly anyone fishing it. I made the decision to move lakes. Having not really caught anything other than my couple of pike all year so far I was itching to get a few fish on the line. Ben, the fishery officer on duty today, said that there were a few people on Jeff's Lake but they were not catching much if anything at all. Hmmmm... By now it was mid afternoon and the Fishery is still on winter time as far as the closing was concerned. That means I need to be out of the gate before 18:00 when it closes automatically. This was a bit of a surprise to me as I thought the fishery was in sync with the clocks going forward for BST (British Summer Time). I was wrong. 19:00 closing does not start until 1st April. That also meant I was another hour short on my fishing time.

Jeff's Lake was flat calm just as I was going home
I knew my best shot at getting a bend in my rod was to try Jeff's Lake and try and bag a few F1s. One advantage with taking the van is that everything can be placed in the back made up and delivered to a new location, quickly and easily. Twenty minutes later I was set up and ready to fish on Jeff's Lake. As I arrived one guy was packing up and looking fairly despondent. On the opposite bank there were a couple of guys who were not catching anything either.

Mk II improvised rod rest
I had an 11ft feeder rod set up with a small 30g Preston method feeder and a 1½ ounce quiver tip. My usual hook and bait is a No.12 hook hair-rigged with a push-stop to take punched bacon grill, with Two Dog groundbait method mix on the feeder. This, I cast out to the near edge of where I know the fish tend to congregate. Having no banksticks or rod rests with me my landing net ring was about to become my rod rest as the first of the F1s took the bait and was keen to come and say hello.

First fish landed on the first cast. Not unusual on this lake, but today it was not what others were experiencing. I rebated the feeder and made a second cast. This time the feeder made it to the bottom of the lake and I was having to wait for a bit, 30 seconds went by and then, bang! Another bite, another F1. By now the other guys had noticed me pull out a couple of fish within a couple of minutes. The next few casts delivered no fish but I was happy to build a small amount of feed in the swim. A few more casts and the results the fishing was producing were okay, but not frantic. I was only getting one bite in three casts. I cast every 40 - 60 seconds so after 10 minutes of fishing I had only caught for or five fish. The guys on the other side of the lake were looking restless and there were mutterings drifting across the lake.

First out was a chirpy F1 on Bacon Grill - Hello!
I decided to change the hook as it was not catching on my nail as it should. A look in the hook length box revealed that I had no more No.12 hooks tied up with push stops. As time was moving on I did not want to stop and tie up and more so I opted to use a No.16 hook that was the only one left tied with a push stop - note to myself to tie some more. I also made a change to the hook bait swapping my favoured bacon grill for a nice juicy kernel of sweetcorn. That did it. I catapulted half a dozen pieces of sweetcorn into my target area and followed it out with the feeder. It did not get a chance to sink as it was taken immediately, and that was with only a 4 inch hook length. For the next hour or so I was landing fish on every cast one after the other. I had found the fish. The guys on the opposite bank went home.

The F1s in here are getting bigger.
A smaller hook and a grain of sweetcorn did the trick
I am more convinced than ever that the Two Dog groundbait mix works really well for F1s and especially on this lake. The change to a smaller hook and sweetcorn just fine-tuned the method to something the fish could not resist. I was not counting but I must have landed thirty fish and probably more in well under under two hours.

Two Dog - works every time
Okay, I am now bored with that. Fishing for F1's on Jeff's lake is too easy. Getting the rod bent for a couple of hours is just what I needed after several months of very little success, but next time I am going to make the effort to get there early and fish one of my preferred swims, on the look out for some bream and the elusive tench. Maybe even a decent roach or even...

Ralph.

P.S. My Two Dog groundbait is not for sale but if you want to give it a try I have published the recipe HERE. Please, let me know how it works for you.          
  

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Cold, no fish and SWANS!!

Bleak - It looks much nicer in the summer!
I was awake long before the irritating monotonous drone, omitted by my not-so-smart phone's alarm, sounded at 05:00. For some obscure reason, me and sleep are not good bedfellows of late. Now, give me a hard kitchen chair, the lunchtime news and I am off, a fully paid up package holiday to the land of nod.

Peering out of the window into the half-light that adorns the grounds of our 'umble abode, reveals that the latest buzz-word to emerge from the annals of the BBC's online weather 'precipitation' was indeed taking place outside the bedroom window. The latest version of the online weather site is now giving likelihood predictions of precipitation in percentage terms to provide yet another fact they can get wrong. Still, if nothing else, it gives us (me?) something else to whinge about.

By the time I had made the flask of coffee, heated up the breakfast and filled the food flask with hot baked beans, tinned ravioli and a few chopped up frankfurters, I was ready to load the van. Thankfully, the 65% chance of precipitation for this hour had become 0% in reality and I was able to load the van in the dry.

Today I was off to Monk Lakes to meet Tim for a day of chat and a bit of fishing thrown in. For me the journey time and distance are at about the maximum I really want to go for a casual day trip; thirty-five miles and about an hour travelling time. Getting there early in the morning is no hassle and I got there a few minutes before 07:00 to find Tim bending someone's ear on the mobile. Who on earth do you call at 07:00 in the morning?

A few minutes later and the main gate opened and we, along with a couple of other vehicles trundled along the drive to the office where we parted with our day ticket fee and made our way to our chosen swim. I decided to revisit the swim I had fished on my first visit. This time the trees were bare and the whole place had a different feel to it. Not really bleak, but very bare as there is no amount of undergrowth and no evergreen trees. It is at times like this that the venue reveals its true identity of a few large holes, filled with water in a field! For me, this makes the venue less appealing at this time of year. That said, it is an excellent place to have a natter.

It was overcast cold when we arrived. While we were setting up, the precipitation I had avoided earlier caught up with us.

All wrapped up and waterproof, this in itself was not a problem apart from giving the maggots traction. A spot of dust from the maggot stock sorted them out and covering them with a towel prevented any further unauthorised excursions.

Warm enough Tim?
We started to fish. Tim was fishing close in using simple light float gear while drowning a few of his maggots. I had a two-rod ticket and set a feeder out in the deeper water looking for anything that would be attracted by my feeder full of Two Dog groundbait and maggots. I made three or four casts to the same spot and then added a hook length baited with a tender morsel of Bacon grill. I left the feeder to sit there awaiting some attention. Meanwhile, I was having a go with one of my elasticated tele-poles.

The swans were eating ourt bed of bait and would not go away.
It was cold and I expected the fishing to be slow but not this slow. Neither of us had a sniff, nothing, not even a line bite. We tried all sorts of things, different weights of line, different hooks and baits but still no action whatsoever. The bleak surroundings, gusty winds and intermittent rain was just about bearable but what really spoilt the day were the birds. First, a flock of seagulls were taking the bait out of the air, in some cases before it hit the water! Then we were plagued by a couple of swans that would not leave us alone and proceeded to eat all the bait off the bottom. Not happy with that, they then proceeded to plough through our lines on several occasions resulting in lost floats, feeders and tackle either by getting themselves caught up in the line or navigating it into the reads. By four o'clock, after spending most of the afternoon trying to avoid the swans, that just followed us around, we gave up and went home. There was only one other person on the 16+ acre lake that we could see. Apart from one, 1-inch long foul-hooked fry, neither of us had a bite, let alone land anything.

Next week I am planning a trip to Beaver Fishery - It should be warmer on Monday and even if it is not, at least there are plenty of nice sheltered spots to fish.

Ralph.

Monday, 19 March 2018

Goin' fishin' and bargain chairs...

Looking out of the window as I type this, the snow has melted, and the sun is out. Great! Time to go fishing.

 The subtitle of this blog is: "The tale of two blokes who decided to have a go at a spot of fishing..."

Well, tomorrow I am going fishing with 'the other bloke' who this blog is supposed to be about - my brother, Tim. It has been a while since I last got out but it is much longer since we have been able to get together for a day out on the bank. As the rivers have closed, we are back to the commercials for the next few months, and as Tim lives down in deepest Kent, it seemed reasonable to choose one of the many fisheries that are spread around the Kent area. After a bit of discussion, we opted to spend the day at Monk Lakes in Marden.

Monk Lakes Fishery is a massive venue with several lakes and a section of river to cater for all styles of fishing. I have been there a couple of times, myself, once on Bridges Lake and again on Match Lake 4, when there was not a match on. For Tim, this will be a first. I don't really have a plan for tomorrow, but I am thinking it will be more about chatting and eating with a bit of fishing thrown in. I will take a van load of gear, and we can decide what we need once we get there.

The new Aldi offering (right) at a few coppers under £15 has to be a great bargain

Bargain Chairs!

On Sunday, Sue and I popped into Aldi to pick up a few supplies. While we were there, we noticed a pile of the fishing chairs they had on a special a few weeks ago. At the time they were priced at a few coppers under £20 each. I have a decent accessory chair and a couple of cheap chairs similar to these, so I was not really interested. However, on seeing them reduced by a further 25%, I thought it might be worth replacing my existing cheap chairs as they were never perfect and the leg adjustment was very flimsy. The Aldi offering looked much better than my current chairs, so at that price, I thought I would take a chance.

The new chairs are much better than the old ones, the mechanism that locks the legs is stable and clicks into place as the legs are unfolded, the tube sections of the frame are bigger, and the leg adjustment is simple and easy rather than the pin-in-a-hole arrangement of the older chairs. The old chairs were bought almost on day one. Indeed, before I had been fishing. They do the job, but they are very wobbly when the legs are extended. At the time, they seemed good value, but at twice what these new ones have cost, they don't look so good today.

A far superior locking system for the legs  
 One thing that drives me nuts (yes another thing!) with the old chair is that it is hard to stand against anything when it is folded, as the end of the tubes it is standing on do not grip the floor, and it is always slipping down onto the floor of the fishing room. The new chairs have solved this problem by fitting 'feet' with large discs on them, making it far more stable when leaning against a wall. A simple addition that makes a big difference and cures an annoying problem.

The large round 'foot' on the end of the seat frame means the chair will stand up easier when it is folded
These new chairs are one of the best buys I have had from Aldi. It is a shame they only sell fishing gear as the odd special buy. It is well worth keeping an eye out for this stuff after the event to see how far it gets reduced. Even at the full price, these chairs are typical of the quality of Aldi's fishing tackle. Okay, it is not top-of-the-tree, but for the price, it would be hard to better the quality.

Ralph.

Monday, 22 January 2018

Stuck at home again...

It is hard work trying to find a break in the weather to go fishing when I do not have to work. I had planned to visit my local fishery in Bromley on Saturday, but it was raining all day. I know a lot of you will not be put off by a bit of rain but being cold and wet for hours on end does not excite me too much. Today would have been the perfect day, and in fact, I had planned to go, but as has been the norm lately my plans were scuppered by having to work for a few hours this morning.

When fishing commercials as I do, I like to make a decent day of it. I could have gone later and fished this afternoon, but by the time I had got there, I would only get a few hours in before it got dark. I suppose I could fish on into the dark for an hour or two, but that is something I have not done before and am not geared up for. Either way, I have the cost of travelling and rod fees to consider which amount to the same for a full 12 hour day as they are for a few hours.

We are hoping to move this spring, and that will make life easier as there is plenty of free or club fishing to be had in and around North Kent. This will mean an odd couple of hours on the bank will be far more practical, having lots of water within a short drive or even walking distance if I fancy a spot of sea fishing.

Looking at the weather ahead for the next few days does mean I am not going to get out until Thursday/Friday at the earliest. I have been targeting perch the last couple of times I have been out. This time I think I am going back to just traditional float/feeder fishing for some silvers, and anything else that comes along. If I can get to the venue reasonably early, I should be able to fish for a good eight or nine hours, which is far more like it.

Jeff's Lake - Beaver fishery
In the meantime, we have had a disaster. I had made up several 500g bags of my experimental perch paste mix - Chinese Dog Bite that I had placed in our dry-store. Our dry-store is one of those giant plastic storage 'barrels' with a lid that is secured in place with a circular clamp. This thing is rodent proof as well as being watertight. We use it to store all our dry bird seed and bait-making supplies. It keeps everything bone dry... That is so long as you remember to put the lid back on.

As luck would have it, although I had left the lid off overnight, the contents had not come to any real harm as they are all wrapped in plastic. However, the barrel was wet on the inside, so I decided to empty it and bring it in. So far so good. I put the bag of white crumb in the airing cupboards to make sure it kept dry, and that was that.

Later that night we heard a commotion in the garden. This is nothing unusual with the surprisingly large amount of wildlife we live with here in London. It was not until the morning we realised what had been going on. Four bags of the paste mix and three bags of prawn crackers had been left on the outside windowsill by mistake. The noise we heard turned out to be the foxes making short work of the prawn crackers, after ripping the bags open and then having a go at 2kg of the dry Chinese Dog Bite paste mix. The paste mix contains powdered red food dye that does nothing to change the colour of the dry mix but bleeds bright red once it is in contact with water. It rained that night.The foxes have eaten most of it, but what little remains is slowly getting washed away by the rain.

I will have to make up a new batch of Chinese Dog Bite, once I have collected together a few more bags of prawn crackers. I am in no hurry, I have decided to shelve the experiment for a few months and try it out when the weather warms up.

Where to go

I have been thinking about where to go fishing later this week. I want to make a day of it, and at the moment it looks like Beaver is the favoured destination. I know, maybe I should be a bit more adventurous but at the moment I have very little time to fish, going to beaver is a 'safe' bet as there are eight lakes and ponds to choose from. The other alternative is Oakley Road. That is closer, and I don't mind doing a shorter day there as the cost of travelling and day-ticket will be significantly less than going anywhere else. I will decide later in the week. 

Oakley Road in the summer - it might be a bit different at this time of year
I have been using a nice old 13ft Silstar float rod I was given by a friend, a couple of years ago. At the same time, he also gave me a Silstar feeder rod that I have not yet used. I plan to take that with me and give it a go, as well as the float rod. Cage, block-end and even method feeder fishing are proposed methods of attack with the feeder rod and a touch of light float fishing with the other rod.
I wonder if the magic of the Two Dog groundbait mix will work in the method at Oakley Road at this time of the year? I am tempted to have a go, but the jury is still out on the destination. I will let you know at the end of the week.

Ralph.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

How do you spell perch? P-I-K-E !

Today was supposed to be a perch hunting session, but as you can see, it did not go exactly to plan. First, the lake (pond) I had planned to fish was already occupied by the time I arrived at the fishery and after talking to Andy, the bailiff, it seemed that Tuscany would not be the best choice for float fishing due to its depth. Instead it was agreed that The Major's Lake would be my best bet, especially as I had fished it successfully for perch last time I was there.

It was cold today, but at least it was was not raining. Before I did anything, I threw half a dozen maggots into the left hand margin. On this swim, that is the corner of the lake with a lot of miscellaneous undergrowth either hanging over or actually growing in the margin. I set up a float rod with a No.16 hook and impaled my first pair of victims - A lob worm with a maggot to help keep it on the hook. The idea was to fish for the perch conventionally before I tried out my paste. See yesterday's post. I dropped the baited hook into the swim and the float settled and then dropped below the surface before it made off in the direction of the island.

If this is a perch it is a big one. I saw a glimpse of something that was determined to get away but felt more like a carp. I am now thinking this thing is going to snap me off, if I am not careful. Then it turned and was heading back from whence it came.. I lifted the rod in an effort to bring it to the surface. It was then I realised I had hooked a pike, and not a tidily one either. Okay, this was no monster but for me this was going to be something to remember. All my waffle about collecting the correct gear and not wanting to sit here on The Major's Lake waiting for a bite and here I am with a fish-on. Better still I landed it with Andy's help 'driving' my rather undersized net. Typical, the one time I leave the bigger net at home I needed it! Andy estimated it to be around 8lb, I did not have a weigh-sling with me either. To be honest, the last thing I expected to catch and land on light gear with no wire trace, was a pike, but I was really pleased I did as I sat there all, day trying all sorts of tactics, but didn't even get a bite. By mid afternoon the light was fading, and I was cold enough to call it a day.  

My first pike was supposed to be a perch...
The testing of the perch paste will have to wait for another day but even though the fish were not playing today, that one pike made it a day to remember and me a happy angler.

Ralph.


Friday, 12 January 2018

Perch paste - Chinese Dog Bite!

Happy New Year, and I hope you all had a great Christmas!

It has been a funny few months. Fishing has all-but come to a halt since September. I had a couple of hours on the weir pool in Canterbury at the end of November but blanked. Since then a whole raft of things has got in the way of my fishing. I have been planning a piking trip, but that is not as simple as it might be due to my location, stuck here in London. It is far easier at the moment to just revert to type and go and pester a few of the resident perch at my favourite commercial. With Christmas and the New Year over and done with, I am off to carry on with a spot of perch fishing at Beaver. I could do a spot of piking there, but I don't have a lure rod man enough for pike, and I really don't fancy sitting on the bank at The Major's Lake for hours on end on the off chance of bagging one on deadbait.

Time to get the gear together, with such a long gap between sessions I need to regroup and decide what I need to take. I planned to keep it really simple, but while making up some experimental groundbait, a couple of days ago, I realised the mix might be more suited to making a paste. I had used a good amount of leftover prawn crackers, you know the things they give away free every time you buy a Chinese takeaway. The prawn crackers contain tapioca flour that makes the mix hold together like dough. It is not at all friable as groundbait should be so I have ended up with a paste mix that is bright red when made wet. Perch seem to favour red so I am going to see if they are interested in my paste. I have no idea if this will work, but I will give it a go, even though it is not something that is usually used at this time of year, to my limited knowledge. In the tradition of the blog, It has to have a silly name and this one was suggested by Sue, so don't blame me!

In case you fancy having a go at making your own, here is the recipe:

Chinese Dog Bite paste mix
  • 800g dog biscuit selection
  • 150g prawn crackers
  • 1350g white breadcrumb 
  • 1tsp red food colouring powder

The dog biscuits are sold in 800g bags and mine came from our local Poundland. As I have said, the prawn crackers came with a Chinese takeaway, but you can buy them from the supermarket, although they seem expensive. It is probably cheaper to just buy some from the local takeaway, if you don't have any left over. The white crumb I now buy in bulk bags already finely ground and absolutely bone dry. If you don't want a huge amount then just dry out a couple of sliced loaves, that will give you about the correct amount. I found that an 800g loaf will dry out to render about 650g of dry crumb. Finally the food colouring. I found a small pot of red colouring at my local Asian food shop. They sell all sorts of useful ingredients that are not commonly available in the traditional supermarkets. Especially spices which are sold in much larger quantities at reasonable prices.

The dog biscuits are ground up with the prawn crackers. It is almost impossible to whiz the prawn crackers on their own as they are so light they tend to stick to the side of the liquidiser and have to be painstakingly wiped out. The biscuit/cracker mix is added to the crumb and mixed together until the mix has a uniform colour. Sprinkle the food colouring into the mix turning it over as you go. Now, riddle the mixture a couple of times to disperse the colouring evenly. Although the mix will not look very red at this stage, it will change dramatically when the water is added. Personally, I like to add river/lake water to my mixes so I will make it up on the bank. If I do need to make some up before I go, I use rain water.  

The food colouring is very strong and bleeds like mad when it is added to water, in a dry form. It seems to get 'locked in' once absorbed into the paste and the cloud effect I expected to get when the paste is immersed in water does not happen. I might try rolling the paste in dry paste-mix powder, just before it is dropped into the water, and see if that makes a cloud. It is all experimental at the moment, but for me that is all part of the fun.

I will take some of my Cattyfish groundbait as I know that works for perch and try the paste as hook-bait and small amounts of marble-sized loose feed. I will have worms, prawns and maggots with me as well so I should be able to catch the odd perch, come what may. I will post the results of my experimenting in the next few days.

Ralph.