Monday, 31 December 2012

2012 Review/2013 Targets

Another year has passed, time to reflect on the previous 12 months and make plans and set targets for the year ahead.
In 2012 I landed 23 different species, nine personal bests, five of which were new species so a productive angling year despite some pretty terrible weather. One highlight for me has been really getting to grips with the fly rod. This branch of our sport is beginning to feature more and more in my plans, fighting big Trout and Carp on light tackle and I can foresee me concentrating more time and effort on this in 2013 as well as targeting other species and new venues with a fly. Wild Trout and Grayling in natural habitats is a must do.
Fishing foreign climes in 2012 was excellent, catfish to 152lb and Tarpon to 125lb both amazing experiences. I am desperate to add further foreign species to my list, nothing booked yet but working on it.
I missed out on a few targets for 2012 namely a double figure Tench and a Twenty pound Pike but I will try to rectify those again in 2013 plus I fancy a shark trip or two again.

2012 in Review
A tough start to the year, just one Pike landed before a slipped disc scuppered any further fishing trips

was all about Chub, several landed but no monsters

went well as I thrashed my previous best Trout and upped my Rudd pb by a couple of ounces

A cat fishing trip to the Ebro landing over 500lb of oversized tadpole topped by a new best of 152lb

The start of my Tench campaign with fish landed to 7lb 14oz

And a bonus Bream of 10lb 9oz

Managed three trips during a family holiday to Florida landing Tarpon to 125lb plus Barracuda, Snapper, Sea Trout and Jack Trevally

Also got back on the Tench trail taking fish to 9lb 8oz

and bonus carp to 16lb

The fly rod came out and I landed Trout to 7lb and my first ever Carp on the fly

The weather warmed up and I caught Barbel

 and Rudd

The Barbel campaign got into full swing with the highlight being a brace of eleven pounders in consecutive casts

September and October
Spent targeting Silver Bream to a new best of 1lb 2oz and Grayling to 1lb 14oz

November and December
has been spent dodging the floods, targeting Chub

 and in the final session a first ever double figure Trout.
Happy New Year all and tight lines 2013

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Boxing Day Battles

A traditional day for country pursuits and in our house that means fishing. A day I look forward to but not a day that has been kind to me in terms of fish caught or conditions faced. Last year I braved freezing temperatures to land two tiny Roach and a small Silver Bream. 2010 was the year the river froze and in minus 18C I found a spot to cast a line but went home bite less and shivering. 
Whilst the Warwickshire Avon continues to burst it's banks almost daily I decided to dig the fly rod out and go hunting for big Trout. My favourite small water is Lechlade fishery and I turned into the car park just after nine this morning. Gloucestershire has not escaped the barrage of rain either and the babbling brook that gently flows around the perimeter was full to bursting and parts of it were running into the lake.
Brook to the right joined to lake on the left
As I paddled through the water something flashed and caught my eye, a baby Pike had almost stranded itself, I went to give it a nudge and it shot off back to the lake.
Predation in miniature
 I started off slowly retrieving a damsel, with little success. Fish were spotted but nothing followed the lure and the ones that I cast towards ignored it completely. A couple of hours passed without incident so a change of tactic was required. A stalking approach with a flashy red lure. Despite the inflow of flood water visibility was not too bad and within minutes I had an interested rainbow, a little jiggle and it was hooked. The fight was fun but not spectacular, only one scary moment when the Trout got me wrong side of a bush but a change of angle by shuffling along the bank had me back in control. I had seen the take and knew it was a good fish, possible personal best, so there was a slight sense of relief when it slid into the net. The scales confirmed what I had suspected, 9lb 3oz, beating my previous biggest by 14 ounces.
9lb 3oz PB
I seem to have an uncanny knack of catching a fish and then losing the fly next cast in a tree-I did just that again! Thoroughly disgusted with myself I took a break and wandered up the far end of the fishery. I could see the odd fish patrolling the margins and there were some big ones, time for a quick brew and then back to the fishing.
The next couple of hours were spent chopping and changing flies trying to find a killer pattern and colour. I had a few follows and flashes but no bites. Just as I was beginning to lose heart I had a take. I did not see the fish but on a slow retrieve there came that moment that you only get fly fishing. A fish had taken the lure and time seemed to stand still as neither the fish nor the angler realised they were attached to each other. It then dawned on me, I struck and the Trout set off for the far bank, a blistering run that took me down to the backing. We both knew what was happening now. I managed to turn it and gradually started to claw back line. It then set off left down the near bank, I had no choice but to follow it, rod held high to avoid nearside vegetation. I turned it again and it went the other way. Again I followed it. Eventually I started to make an impression on it and I got my first glimpse of a very broad flank, I could see it was big. The runs became shorter and the head shakes less vigorous, I was starting to get the upper hand. I prayed for knots to hold, line to hold and hook to hold and after about ten minutes I squeezed the fish into my undersized net. A second new pb and to make it even more special my first double, 10lb 9oz, happy boy!
10lb 9oz-gonna need a bigger net
Fish limit reached just as it started to chuck it down, result, job done, home time.
Nearly twenty pound of fish, the smaller one for our freezer and the bigger one given to the neighbours-showing off!

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Chubby Chasing

T'is the season..... for freezing temperatures, too much water in the river and sloppy muddy treacherous river banks. I expected a difficult session and thought the best chance of a fish on the bank would be a Chub
There was plenty of evidence of the recent floods around with piles of debris, plastic bags, bits of driftwood and even the base of a bed. 
On arriving at the river I was surprised to see how much it had risen turning it into a speeding dirty brown torrent. I still felt the fish would be feeding, not prolifically but all I needed to do was find them. Roving approach required then. 
I walked the full length of the fishery baiting up likely looking swims with a dozen or so lumps of cheese paste in each. There was a chance of the fish finding this smelly bait in the gloomy depths. I dropped in the last swim as the sun burnt off the last of the cloud cover, the warmth on my back most welcome.
The strength of the flow made it impossible to fish anywhere but the near side margin, the fish too would be there escaping the main flow. The first spot was very quiet apart from a friendly little Robin looking for a feed and a Woodpecker doing likewise on a far bank.

Right hand trunk from a long distance
The next swim I tried was equally quiet, my concentration was waning as it does when suddenly the rod trip did a huge lurch, I struck, needless to say I missed the take. With renewed confidence I stared at the rod tip-it remained stationary. It looked like I'd missed my only opportunity. Three swims later I was almost back to the van when I finally got another bite and this time I hooked up. A spirited fight followed which I won and landed a 3lb 7oz Chevin. Blank saved.
3lb 7oz
Soon after I hooked up again but suffered a lost fish. The swim went dead and it felt like my feet were doing the same. Home time.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Getting cold but dry at least!

When I woke this morning I had a feeling it was going to be a tough day by the waterside. The rain has finally ceased (for now) and the river is back in it's banks, well most of it is. I hadn't planned on tackling running water, still far too much dirty brown water in there for my liking so I headed off to a favourite local still water of mine in the hope of a big Perch. There had been a sharp drop in temperature overnight and the forecast was for bright and cold conditions all day, not ideal for Perch but I still had an air of enthusiastic optimism about me.
The plan of attack was to fish Prawn in the edge baiting regularly with mashed Prawn and red maggot.
The fish were having none of it. This lake is stream fed so has had and is still getting lots of water in it, freezing cold water this morning. The fish were keeping their mouths shut. Still it was a lovely day to be outdoors. I had started the session fishing for big Perch, three hours later I was just fishing for bites. A change of area and a change to maggots brought me fish. The float would twitch, wiggle and just about go under, the were being finicky due to the conditions. I finished the day with a few very small Perch.....
and a few slightly bigger Roach.
As the sun went behind the trees my feet started to feel a bit icy so I packed away, satisfied to have avoided the blank and caught a few fish.
Click here to see a summer session at Hailes

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Gravel Pit Piking

Beyond the fence is the field where on an August bank holiday weekend there will be hundreds of anglers milling about the fishing stalls trying to pick up a bargain or two. At the moment it is under about seven feet of dirty floodwater. 
This morning I headed off to Linear to attempt to catch a gravel pit Pike, something I have never done before (by design). Three years ago I landed a Pike out of St Johns lake on a boilie! This time I took dead baits.
The forecast rain was not due until late morning so at least I could set up in the dry. Oxfordshire has not managed to avoid the rain therefore the banks were sodden and the pegs were actually in danger of disappearing under water.
I put three rods out, two in the margins to either side and the other straight out beyond the weed line. To say it was quiet was an understatement, not even a bleep, and then mid morning the rain started. 
And it did not let up. The rods continued in silence so to alleviate the boredom I played around with the camera.
I took photos of the rain on top of the brolly...

the rain from under the brolly....

and anything that flew by.

Around lunch time the bailiff came to inform me they were closing the whole complex at 3pm as a precaution for the flooding, I think it was unnecessary but I had had enough so didn't mind.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

I'm thinking stillwater this weekend!

The Warwickshire Avon in the centre of Evesham having burst it's banks already and another deluge forecast. Getting home should be interesting and I think it may be a couple of weeks before I cast line here again.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Chub on the Cheese

The last of the leaves are falling from the trees and Winter is almost upon us. Today the river looked perfect, about a foot above normal, a nice tinge of brown coloration to the water and not too much debris floating along. I felt confident of catching especially as I was setting my stall out for Chub, not the most difficult of target in these conditions.
Chub love cheese paste, especially old smelly cheese paste and mine smelled terrible being a batch I made last year that had been in and out of the freezer several times. The rig I set up was a simple running ledger to a 4lb hooklink and a size 10 paste hook. Although it was not a warm day the temperature was still quite good for this time of year. Great from an angling perspective but it played havoc with the cheese, it was too soft because it was warm and therefore difficult to keep on the hook. If it did stay on for the cast then there was the mental uncertainty of "is the bait still on the hook?" or am I wasting my time. I worked out that by dipping the paste into the water for 20 seconds before casting it would stay on until it was eaten or I reeled in, pulling the hook through it.
Hitting Chub bites can be a frustrating game, they rattle the tip, they pluck it, they shake it and sometimes they actual show a bite that you can strike at and hit. I had six of those in total, landing five fish up to 4lb 4oz. No 'five pounder' that I would have liked or 'six pounder' that I dream about from the Avon but a good few hours sport.

click here to see my cheese paste recipe

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Leaf me alone

Perch were the target of this weeks 'sesh' and Willow Farm the venue. I have caught two pounders from here in the past but there are rumours locally of much bigger fish occasionally landed by pleasure anglers fishing for bites. Fifty Lobworms and two bags of Prawns would be bait. I had a plan.
I set up two float rods carefully plumbing the marginal shelf so I would fish at the bottom of the drop off feeding mashed Prawn, cut up Lobworm and red maggots steadily throughout the day to attract the Stripy Sergeants. There was just one aspect I had not counted on, the late fall of Autumn leaves. There were literally thousands of them coming off the various types of Willow that line the edges of this lake.
There was only a gentle to light breeze but it was constantly changing direction. The leaves would blow in, blow across and then out again in a never ending cycle. I kept adjusting the float position and it would be ok for a few minutes and then the leaves would attack it and again and again I would have to move the float.
It took me about two hours to get one bite, the first fish falling for a Prawn. It powered off. At first I thought I was attached to a giant Perch but the fight continued too long and soon I realised a Carp was the culprit. I was just beginning to get control on the light gear when the hook pulled.
The commotion killed the swim and it took another couple of hours before any more signs of life. Next bite came to the worm but I bounced the fish off on the strike, the worm had masked the hook point. Between the worms and the leaves I was starting to think I was staring a blank in the face when the float sailed off while the worm was on the drop and I hooked a fish. It was not the target species but there was an air of relief when I netted a decent Roach. It was an old fish, only one eye and one pectoral fin, I almost felt sorry for it so I took a quick photo of it's best side and put it straight back.
That was the end of the action for another week, a familiar pattern is beginning to emerge to my sessions, nearly blanking with a late fish saving the day. Need to try harder.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Trip 'oop North'

This weekend the wife and I took the kids to visit the old folks in Yorkshire but I still found room in the schedule for a fishing session and also room in the boot for some fly gear. Last year I had had a successful session at Bellflask lake so I decided to revisit the former gravel pit for another bash. Upon arrival I sought out the owner to pay. He informed me that the fishery was closed due to the gravel track leading up to the fishery having some work done to it and also normally he only takes telephone bookings. Having said that he would still let me fish this time 'but dan't fell in thare lad, nay'un to rescue ya, ya got t'hole lake to theeself'-result! I quizzed him about the Pike I had heard about that roam the crystal clear depths and could I have a go for them but only he is allowed to fish for them, the biggest he has had weighed 43lb! Going to have to keep working on him for some of that!
I started out on the spit, the old roadway for the gravel trucks that used to remove the Yorkshire stone, this is central to the lake and gives a large area to fish. Lures were to be my first line of attack and I had the occasional follow but only one take where the hook pulled. The sun dipped in and out of the clouds and a breeze started to pick up so I decided on a move into the sheltered bay opposite. I persevered with the lures trying Ugly Buggers, Dancers, Critters, Lead Bugs and Humungus Whites but the Trout were being lazy, sometimes following slowly but never taking. It was beginning to get frustrating. A change of plan was required.
The odd fish was topping but there was little fly life. I looked for what they could be eating and the only thing creature I could find was tiny white midges. Having searched through my box I picked out a small white dry fly, a grey duster I think. On it went. First cast and I missed a take, then nothing. After about half an hour I put the rod down, reached for my box and suddenly the line tightened catching me totally by surprise. Panic set in when I realised the trailing line was round my boot, I slackened off, untangled myself and pulled tight, luckily the fish was still on. In the clear water the hard fighting Trout gave me a nervous runaround but finally it slid over the net and the blank was avoided.
A full tailed plump Rainbow of about 2lb, shame I did not see the take!
I was on a three fish ticket but at bellflask you can practice catch and release so I did,  plenty of Trout in the freezer anyway.
I fished on, found a shoal of Perch but could not tempt them to take a fly before it was home time. 

Monday, 29 October 2012

Chub and Rats

Saturday was a difficult session due to rapidly falling overnight temperatures, a clear sunny sky and a brisk wind blowing plenty of leaves and debris into the water. I decided to start the session after predators and chose one of my favourite Avon weir pools to search for Pike (and Zander-bit naive considering how bright it was!). I tried hard, changed baits and spots several times but could not muster a bite. When I go fishing I like to have a back up plan because I detest blanking and this week that entailed mashed bread and the feeder.
Roach, Chub, Dace, whatever, I wasn't bothered and after feeding a lovely run just downstream I started to get my first indications of fish in the swim. Finally, well into the afternoon I had a strikeable bite and played a Chub of about 3 and a bit pounds to the net. The Chub was not the only thing attracted to the bread though, a pair of Rats kept popping their heads out and rushing off when I startled them. This happened for about half an hour until one ran right over my foot! That was enough for me, I don't mind them if they keep their distance but when they get that brave I'm not keen. I packed up and headed for home.
Not the most exciting of sessions but felt I should post it in the interest of balance, not all the days can be fish filled.