Monday, 29 September 2014

Rain Required

As the driest September in living memory draws to a close anglers across the country are praying for rain. The low water and crystal clear water has led to long term difficult conditions on the nations rivers and for us this weekend was no different. My old school mate Matt ventured all the way down from North Yorkshire in the hope of doing battle with some hard fighting Warwickshire Avon Barbel but they proved extremely elusive.
I took him to some of my favourite haunts, swims that have been productive for me in the past and we tried all sorts of tactics from 'bait and wait' with hemp and maggots, legered pellets and rolling meat but we could not muster a bite between us.

The only saving grace were the Perch. They were extremely active chasing fry in the margins and they weren't fussy either as they snaffled our worm baits. We took several between us to well over a pound whilst trying for the Barbel. A nice distraction but we couldn't help feeling short changed.

By mid-afternoon I think the lack of excitement took it's toll on Matt and having worked hard all day for little reward we called it a day and retired to the pub for liquid refreshment and sustenance. We could probably have snatched a target fish at dusk but the odds were slim.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Wychavon Parish Games-Match Fishing

Match fishing is not my scene, I just don't like being told when and where I can fish but once a year I give it a go. The Parish Games is an inter village tournament of over thirty different disciplines including pool, cross country, 5-a-side football, darts, crib etc. and fishing is one of the events. You must reside in the village you represent and a team of three is required for the angling. The venue is always the Warwickshire Avon in Evesham, the same stretch that holds the angling festival on Bank Holiday August. The river is split into three sections, each team has an angler in each section and where you finish in your section is the number of points you get. Total the three lots of points and the team with the lowest amount wins, simple.
The draw takes place in the local cafe at 8.30am and fishing is from 10.00am until 3pm with a presentation of money and prizes straight after. My team mates are both serious match fishermen who know every peg on this stretch backwards so while they fought it out over pegs 5 and 22 I took the remaining peg, 41.

My tactics were simple, I had two main baits chopped worm and maggots plus pellets as a last resort. Right from the off there were fish topping close in front of me so I set off with 'mag and wag' just below the surface. First cast I had a Dace. It was tiny all eyes and not a lot else. Within half an hour I had a few more but they were so small that the maggot(and the hook) didn't get fully in their mouths and when they came up in the water they just fell off! I thought this will take me ages to get a decent weight and its not my style of fishing in any way so when the boredom and frustration had reached boiling point I changed to a feeder. I continued to feed close in but the feeder was sent further out in search of more substantial specimens. That was my first mistake. A fruitless time followed until I brought the feeder close in and nailed a half decent Perch. That however was a false dawn and was not backed up by any of it's brethren. I went back to tiddler bashing, nailed a few more and changed to worm, another mistake.
This also proved futile as did the last hour of trying for a biggie with pellet, mistake number three.

I ended the match with a meagre nine ounces. Luckily I wasn't the only one who struggled and I finished tenth in my section but I can't help thinking that if I had stayed with the tiddlers that placing could have been so much higher!
Thankfully my team mates had fared much better in their fancied pegs with Don coming a respectable third in his section and Ady winning his and the match to give us a creditable second place overall. The first time our village had been placed for nearly thirty years! Next time!

Monday, 15 September 2014

Love a Bit of Blue!

The sun had just risen over the horizon as we stealthily made our way out of Plymouth harbour. Our mission was to do battle with the Blue sharks off the Devon coastline, an annual trip I have made several times with our kid but this time we dragged along a sharking 'virgin', Martin.

Although we didn't quite have the whole ocean to ourselves we were the only anglers venturing out that day. A force four/five breeze meant that anchoring up over wrecks was not possible but as we would be drifting it was safe to fish but not easy to retain your breakfast as both Martin and Nathan proved! It meant that there was more sausage rolls and pork pie for my lunch though!!

Mackerel Penis-Unfortunate!!
First job as always is to gather bait which means Mackerel feathering, a fun prelude to the real thing. Thankfully they were plentiful and in no time at all we had enough for both the sharks and the rubby-dubby.

From the Mackerel grounds we then steamed out the rest of the 22 miles to our drift which would take us another five miles over several wrecks.
The tackle used was 30 pound class boat rods multiplier reels loaded with 50 pound mono, 200 pound mono leader, wire trace and large circle hooks. Poly ball floats were clipped to the line allowing us to adjust the depths of the Mackerel flapper baits.

The Mackerel was mashed and deposited over the side in an onion sack to allow the scent, oils and bits of fish to create an attractive slick for the sharks to follow. As sharks can smell a drop of blood from miles away I'm not sure the whole fish carnage is necessary but it has been done this way for years so I never question the skipper's methods.
A rotation system is in place for the three rods with everyone starting with one each(after a draw has been made) and when an angler has landed a fish he relinquishes his rod until all the others have caught.

Nathan's rod was the first to register but in the time it took him to get to it the fish had dropped the bait. It was obviously hungry though and immediately picked up mine instead. A strange fight ensued where it came straight at the boat and then didn't really cause me any problems until it was close in. Not a monster but at least it was a start.
Occasionally sharks spit their stomachs out in an attempt to eject something they don't want inside them-like a hook. It does them no harm and they swallow them back down and live perfectly fine. It makes for a gross photo mind you so I have heavily cropped the image below for those of a weak constitution, don't want Martin and Nathan to be sick again!

Then there followed a lengthy period of inactivity but finally the deepest rod signalled a take and Martin landed his first ever 'Blue' and he seemed so pleased that he gave it a 'Rex Hunt' style kiss.

The slick was obviously working extremely well now and before long Nathan landed his own bit of Blue.

There was one slight problem we had in that the Sharks were not the only creatures attracted to the fishy trail, a couple of hungry Gannets joined us and they were a nightmare when trying to get the baits out to the right area. These huge 'Pterodactyls' as the skipper calls them have amazing eyesight and the ability to dive really deep, enough to attack the bait. Several times they descended into the depths to retrieve what they thought was a free meal only to find a big hook buried in it.

Amusing at first and magnificent to see these huge birds in action but it was a relief when they buggered off. Thankfully we didn't hook any of them!

Also in the slick were plenty of Garfish which are great fun to play on light tackle. I cannot resist catching a few and my Avon rod and eight pound line could only just cope. To be honest when I hooked a 2lb 4oz specimen it really beat me up but thankfully the size eight hook held firm and I landed a new pb.

We did manage a couple more Sharks between us, a small one for me that was spared a photo session and the biggest of the day to Martin, a 5foot 11inch specimen weighing approximately 45lb.

Ignore the 'Pussy Pouch' and lipstick!
All in all another thoroughly enjoyable trip aboard Sea Angler II and we celebrated our success long into the night in the bars of Plymouth.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Fiddling with my Flies

I set my Barbel rods up prior to checking the following days forecast and when I saw that beautiful sunshine was on the cards I made the decision to leave them at home. The Warwickshire Avon has been running low and clear for ages now and the Barbel would definitely not oblige in these bright conditions. Instead the fly rods were chucked in the van as I fancied trying something different this weekend.

My expectations were low but I did manage to get quite a few fish to rise to my small home made spider patterns. Roach, Chub, Dace and Bleak all showed interest but the bites were absolutely lightning quick and made for a frustrating yet enjoyable few hours fishing.

No monsters were landed but it was more about fun and trying something different than specimen fish, a pleasant change from sitting behind static rods for hours on end. Also it was a brilliant way to explore miles of river and check out some new swims with potential for Winter Chub and Pike fishing and I found some mouth watering prospects for when the weather changes.
The river is still alive with nature so the camera got plenty of use too.