Saturday, 30 June 2012

Trout, Lechlade

7lb 0oz
Had an urge to test my new fly rod against some battling Rainbows so headed down to Lechlade fishery. It was lunchtime by the time I got down there due to over indulging the night before at a sportsman's dinner. I still felt rubbish, my head pounded and I had a rotten taste in my mouth but figured the fresh air would do me some good. Also the smells from behind me would dissipate quicker.
The fishing was hard, I placed every fly in the box in front of those stubborn Trout but they were playing hardball. The rod cast beautifully so that was pleasing.
Eventually I managed to get a take on a red lure type fly. The fish spat it out so I put it straight back on it's nose and it went for it again. Stupid fish should have realised it was trouble when it tasted metal only seconds before. This time I managed to hook it and it gave me a pretty non-descript fight before I netted it. 7lb on the nose.
With renewed vigour I moved to the next swim and second chuck I nailed her little brother. The fight was much better but the rod handled it easily and I reached my two fish limit with a 5lb 8oz Trout.
Next target is to get a Carp on the fly and really test it out properly.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Golden Bonefish

I have just finished reading Dom Garnett's Flyfishing for Coarse Fish and this was the inspiration for an evening session chasing Carp. Last night was almost perfect for floater fishing. It was warm, there was no breeze but it was overcast though and I do prefer clear skies and sun, it makes spotting the Carp a bit easier.
I have treated myself to a new fly rod, 9 weight, 9 foot and that is now coupled with a large arbor reel and floating line. I figured this kit would be perfect for Pike, Carp, Bass and the bigger fish my other rod, a 5 weight, would not be able to deal with.
Local to me is Stubbs pool, a small water that is not stocked, in fact most of it's old stock went into the river or died in the 2007 flood but there are a few hardy Carp that did survive. They have a home full of natural bait so it is not an easy place to catch fish, it has few features and steep banks. When I arrived there were two other anglers set up, both in my first choice swims so I headed down to the shallow end.

There were fish in front of me but I could not get them competing with any great vigour. The rod cast brilliantly though so my confidence in that grew and when one of the other anglers left just before dusk I knew I had to move. I was now on fish and they fed well. The light was fading and I could barely see the fly when I finally got a take, it was so fast I just wasn't ready, the rod hooped over, I started to give it some back but it ploughed into the weeds. The hook pulled and the Carp was gone.  Someone recently described a Carp as a golden Bonefish? and this one certainly had the speed of one (I think-I've never hooked a bonefish!) I had no more takes before it became too dark to see but I am itching to try again. My first Carp session for 18 months, one lost fish but despite that I still went home happy with the success I had had. My first Carp hooked on a fly, it was fun.
Going back to the book, I would recommend it highly. It is well written, easy to read, full of information and great photos. I think some of the chapters are stretching it however-Tench on the fly, come off it Dom!! It has got me thinking and added another dimension to my fishing.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

A new season begins so I go a-Tenching

I have spent the week watching the river rise and fall and rise again. Couple that with the torrential rain forecast for opening day of the season and I decided to give fishing a miss. Instead I headed for still water on second day and I am glad I did. The sun shone over Hardwick lake all day long as I resumed my mission for a double figure Tench. The recent cold water and coldish weather seems to have delayed the Tench from spawning this year and reports of big Tench are still coming through the grapevine.
My session started off slowly, a few liners, probably as the fish were grubbing through the Canadian pondweed and catching my line was all I had to show for the first couple of hours. At about 10am I had some proper bleeps on the alarm and I struck into what felt like a good fish but the plodding type fight made me think it wasn't a Tench. I landed a (nuisance?-not really) Carp weighing 11lb 14oz. Whenever the 'name anglers' do a feature in a magazine and they land a double it is always called a 'pretty fish'. Well I thought this one was a 'pretty fish' too.
11lb 14oz
A short while later I had another run and surprisingly landed another Carp, this time 16lb exactly.
16lb 0oz
Another 'pretty' Mirror falls for the chopped worm feeder tactic.
The complex was very quiet probably due to the weather but the few anglers I spoke to had been there since Friday and blanked! They should try worm. I use a slightly extended helicopter style rig with only chopped worm in the feeder, no spodding, no messing about and it works a treat.
8lb mainline, 6lb hooklink, size 12 hook
chopped and ready
The next cast finally produced the target fish but it was a strange fight. On the bite the fish managed to bury it's head in the weed but I steadily managed to pull it free. I thought it was a Bream because there was little fight from it but it actually still had it's head covered in weed. It was all too easy until the weed fell off just before the net and then it went bananas. A great scrap in the clear water below my feet until I finally got the better of it.
It was a good fish and thoughts of finally catching a double crossed my mind but she fell short weighing in at 9lb 8oz. Still a nice fish though.
9lb 8oz
My second biggest Tench ever and my 14th 'nine'. I will get a double one of these days!
I added a small Bream to my total and that was the end of the action.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Tarpon-the end of the trilogy

Duck Key, Florida 6th June
 I felt that I had some unfinished business with the big Silver Kings of the Keys and my aching body had just about recovered so I booked another morning charter, this time from Captain Cook's yard.
Only in America

I met Captain Bucko at 8am along with his first mate Ely, to fish on their boat Slack Off(only in America).
'Slack off'

First impressions can be deceptive. I thought I had been paired up with a couple of right Hillbillies but in fact it transpired that they were seasoned professionals who tournament fish with the best of the best. Two weeks ago they had finished second in a Sailfish competition in Key West bagging one hundred thousand dollars! Their favourite method is live baiting. It felt a little wrong to be using 2 lb Mullet as bait but that's what we did. The theory behind mullet as a bait is that they stay on the surface unlike Pinfish which dive. The Tarpon attack the bait in a flurry of spray and silver which is all visible and it certainly gets your adrenaline flowing and your heart racing.  The first two bites resulted in lost fish. Tarpon have incredibly boney mouths and there are very few spots for a hook to penetrate so missed fish is part and parcel of angling for them. Third time lucky we scored and it was game on again. After some skilful manoeuvring by the skipper around the bridge supports we were out in open water and the battle could really commence.
Fish on

 The tackle we used was 50lb mono, a 7 foot 30-50g rod and a tournament reel with a quality clutch. This time I had a lot more powerful tackle enabling me to excerpt proper pressure on the fish, odds a bit more in my favour. However this was another big powerful fish, it jumped, it went on 50 yard runs and it still dictated the fight.

Like a Dolphin

  Forty minutes in I was sweating, arms aching and dehydrated but managed to touch the leader. Again the skipper said 'caught' fish. I wanted more though so battled on for a further forty minutes and eventually it started to tire. I have never played another fish like it, they are pure muscle, a slight movement of their tail screams the clutch and they have attitude-lots of it.
Finally beaten

Finally we got it close but it still took a dozen attempts before Ely could get a hold of it and lift it from the water for unhooking and photos.
Ely lifts her up

 It is illegal to bring them on a boat, in fact you are not allowed to lift them from the water such is the protection they have but in my book that makes it a proper caught fish.  An amazing specimen weighing 125lb and the job was done.
Job Done!

We had 15 minutes more trying to hook another but I was quite glad we didn't and home we went.

More Florida fishing part two.

A millpond

Duck key, Florida 4th June 2012.
Two days after the Tarpon battle I was still feeling the effects, back ache and a bruised groin(from the rod butt). In spite of this there was still an itch to get out on the water so I booked a half day with Captain Billy Whitney aboard his skiff, Soc-Et-Tu-Um (Only in America!). We met at 7.15am in Tom's dock where the Tarpon are permanent residents but you are not allowed to fish for them.

 These are the clever ones, they know that if they hang around they have an easy meal of the remains of the gutted fish brought in by the fishermen.
I had decided that this trip was to be a more leisurely and sedate affair targeting Snapper, Jacks, Sea Trout and Redfish if we were lucky.
Several buckets of Shrimp were loaded and put on ice and off we went. I would have liked to have tried to catch a Bonefish but they have not been seen in this part of the Keys for a couple of years. A cold front came through and destroyed a whole year group and moved the bigger ones further along the coast. This makes the Florida grand slam(Tarpon, Bonefish and Permit) very difficult nowadays.  To add to the problems the Keys angler has already is a proliferation of seaweed that has began to flourish in the area. On top of that there is an abundance of Pinfish (small and inedible critters) that attack the baits before the sought after species can get a look in.  With all that against us we sped out beyond the weed about twenty minutes to a relatively clear area. Tactics out here is a fluffy luminous green jig head  weighted lure tipped with a real Shrimp tail over the hook shank.
Shrimp on ice

These are cast out as far as possible and retrieved 'sink and draw' style to the boat. Within seconds the annoying pinfish are on the bait and the Shrimp gets obliterated nine times out of ten. When we could keep a bait on we caught well, hard fighting Mangrove Snapper, Jack Trevally that dived in the weed and Sea Trout. The Sea Trout were a different species to our own, they look similar in terms of spots and silver coloration but have a dorsal fin similar to a Bass with spines. I lost count of how many fish were caught in the end but we finished up with a few 'keepers' on ice. These were donated to Mrs Whitney upon our return. An enjoyable mornings angling but not as exciting as fishing for Tarpon.
A brace of Snapper 

Key West, Florida, Part One

June 2nd,

I don't want to make you all jealous but as I sit here writing this it is 28 degrees, 10.37pm and my view is of the hotel pool and the calm sea waters of Duck Key beyond. I have a cold Bud to hand, there is a lady plucking acoustic tunes in the distance and the smell of fire torches is alighting my nasal senses. The kids are playing well together(for a change!) And the wife is quiet mainly due to her Rum cocktail. There is a downside to it all though but again I feel your sympathy may be in short supply. I have discovered new muscles and they are sending sharp twinges of pain to my brain even if I don't move. This morning I endured the longest hardest battle of strength and wits I have ever had with any fish and I think both of us will agree it was honours even.
Last week I spent five days straight in Disneyland, Orlando. The kids loved it, as did both Claire and I but by day five I was beat. We then drove down to Key West and it was 'adult time'. We checked in to our hotel late Wednesday afternoon and first thing Thursday morning I was in the concierge's ear quizzing him about getting a day afloat. Within an hour he had a Captain (not skipper as in Blighty) lined up for me, I was booked for the following day.
There is plenty of species down here to cross off the bucket list but I fancied getting out on the flats, Tarpon being the target. The following morning I was awoken by the phone ringing by the bed, unbelievable, while England bathed in glorious sunshine the Florida Keys was hit with tropical storms, 6 o'clock and a thunderstorm raged outside, my fishing session is postponed for 24 hours.  Saturday morning came, along with a break in the weather (we have had three days of rain whilst we have been over here!) and Brendon the Captain for the day picked me up at 6.15am with his boat on the trailer and down to the harbour we went.
Dawn, Key West Harbour
A quick stop off at the bait shop for crabs (never did find out what they were for) and we set off to his traps to pick up live bait. Then came the first surprise of the day. Trap one held a load of pinfish (what we wanted) and a large Moray eel (which we didn't want!).
Baitfish plus unwanted Moray Eel
We set the eel free, carefully!, and then proceeded to empty the other trap, thankfully full of pinfish only. Brendon's father was already fishing and his clients had lost two Tarpon already that morning so we anchored alongside as this was the obvious place to start.
Tarpon Alley
A pinfish was hooked on to a size 3/0 circle hook and cast out. Within five minutes the rod stopped it's small baitfish tapping as it bent double, fish on.  In Florida they call it sport fishing but I thought it a little ridiculous that to catch a massive powerful fish they use a seven foot spinning rod with 15lb braid mainline and a 20lb mono hook length. I just hung on, there was nothing else I could do.  Tarpon are a prehistoric creature, this is born out by the fact their evolution has not changed them for 18 million years, we were still apes then! They have the ability to breathe underwater but also the capacity to take huge gulps of air and process that also into energy. Any other fish you battle if it takes a gulp of air you know you have it beaten, with a Tarpon it has more energy for a fight. They come to the surface regularly which means you know what you're up against . Sometimes this is a nerve racking roll, other times an acrobatic leap seven feet in the air, spectacular shows of agility and aggressive behaviour.
Taken on Brendon's phone
The big girl I was attached to leapt out over a dozen times and every leap was accompanied by a 'that's a big fish man!' from my guide or 'that's a one thirty pounder!'. He wasn't helping my nerves in the slightest.  After 25 minutes I was starting to feel the pain. On the light gear we used we could do nothing but follow this fish. Slightly stronger tackle would still be sporting but give the angler more power to exert on the fish.  Before I knew it I had been playing the fish for an hour, I was swapping arms, gaining line where I could only for the tarpon to take it back at will and we had travelled two miles from where it was hooked. Hemingway must have hooked a Tarpon and not a Marlin, pound for pound there is no comparison. Ten minutes later we finally got the fish close enough to touch the leader, a caught fish in the skipper's mind and also according to the IGFA's rule book.
Despite my aching muscles I wanted to continue and try to get this fish on the boat. By now we were well off the flats where we hooked it and about 3 miles out to sea, yachts and speedboats passed us and it was getting choppy. Remnants from the recent storm. The skipper's father's Tarpon had also ended up out to sea but they decided it was too choppy and had cut the line. We soldiered on. The two hour mark passed, the fish was tiring, and so was I to the point of exhaustion. My shirt was welded to my back with sweat and I needed water.  I gave it as much pressure as I could probably too much because as I got it to the boat the mono parted. Respect was due on both sides. I do not think I will ever have another battle like it. I salute you big girl.  The question is does it count? The skipper said 'yes'. IGFA's rules say 'yes'. Some people may think 'no'. I am going with the adage 'when in Rome etc etc...'. My latest pb is a Tarpon of 130lb.  That wasn't the end of the session though. I drank a bottle of water in one, half of another bottle and sat down for a breather. The skipper asked if wanted to go for another Tarpon, no way, let's do something a bit easier. Off we sped to the mangrove flats.
Stunning Flats and Mangroves
The scenery was stunning, the water clearer than gin. We spotted Sting Rays, various sharks and our target species Barracuda. Every cast with a surface popping rattling lure produced a follow but they were being fussy.  At the third spot we found some 'Cuda' feeding aggressively and I nailed five in quick succession.
Toothy Critter!!
It was great fun as they attacked the lure hard and shot off stripping line and making the reel screech. The biggest was a four pounder, not massive but another species ticked off the bucket list and a new PB set.
Second pb of the day
I was back in the harbour by 1 pm, boat on the trailer and in the swimming pool with the kids by half past.