Tuesday, 30 June 2015

It Ain't Half Hot!!

Phew, what a scorcher!! Got to the river early as knew that the heat later in the day would be too much for me, Tazzy and the fish. Travelled light just with one rod and a bag of bits and while Tazzy watched the swans every move I set up a simple ledger rig and glued two small pellets to the hair rig. 

Instantly I was getting twangs and pulls on the rod tip as the resident Chub played with the bait but the long hair prevented any unwanted hook-ups that would disturb the swim and scare away todays target, Barbel.
It took about twenty minutes for a proper bite to materialise and although it was only a small Barbel it really beat me up in the crystal clear water. I could see it was only about four pounds so I unhooked it in the water so as to cause the least amount of stress as possible.
The next fish was marginally bigger weighing 5lb 14oz and again I kept the stress to a minimum, a 'release' photo being satisfactory.

Eventually it had to happen a three pound Chub managed to get itself hooked and with the boat traffic growing more frequently annoying so the dog and I retired to a cooler place.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Great to be back riverside

Eight days into the new season and I finally belatedly wet a line on running water. A short evening session on a new (to me) stretch of the upper Warwickshire Avon reputed to hold a good head of Barbel.
Tactics were exactly the same as the end of the last season, hair-rigged pellets and pva bags. Within minutes of the first cast and I was into a fish. Sadly not the Barbel I was hoping for but an immaculate small Chub graced the net. I weighed it only because it was the first of the season, 1lb 13oz, it was a start.

Three more Chub followed with the biggest being a 3lb 11oz specimen that sadly did not have the body weight that it's big head belied. It was obviously well spawned out.

Sadly no Barbel tonight but there is still plenty of summer left for ol' whiskers. It was just a pleasure to be back by flowing water and I will never grow tired of sunsets like the one we were treated to tonight.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Persistance Pays Off

Angling is full of challenges and it has certainly been a challenging couple of weeks for me of late. 
Now don't get me wrong I love Carp fishing but they are a species I rarely fish for by design. The only time I will target them is in the Summer when they can be caught off the surface using floating baits. I don't think there is a more exciting way of fishing, a wee dog biscuit merrily bobbing away on the surface when suddenly a huge pair of rubber lips sucks it below the surface. The angler strikes and all hell breaks loose as the shocked fish makes a mad dash for freedom. 
Thats how it's supposed to happen but for the previous three sessions were a case of what could go wrong did gone wrong. The venue where I most enjoy this kind of fishing is not a chocolate coloured overstocked puddle, commercials are far too easy. This lake is gin clear, in fact it is clearer than that, if that's possible. There is never a bivvy in sight which suits me, in fact there is rarely another angler. This means that the Carp are super spooky of any human presence so concealment is paramount.
The water is choked with weed which is a positive in that there is loads of natural food for the Carp to grow big on but it's also a negative in that it gives the fish an excellent means of escape. And the final problem to overcome is the birdlife, swans, moorhens and bloody loads of ducks live here. As soon as they hear the pang of the catapult elastic they come running thinking that there will be a nice easy meal for them to mop up. 
On my first attempt the line I used was way too heavy. The Carp could see it a mile off and consequently never went near the bait. The second session I employed lighter line but just couldn't keep the bait away from the ducks. The Carp didn't have a chance, in fact I nearly caught a Duck as it took off with my bait but thankfully the hook didn't get a hold and the bird dropped it mid-air!

Last night I spent a few hours water-side. I managed to get a few bites but didn't hook any of them. I had been using pop-up boilies cut down to the shape of the loose fed dog-biscuits and the size twelve hooked nicked into one side. For some reason every time I struck I hit thin air. 
I was seeing plenty of fish, big ones too but I just couldn't catch one for love nor money. It was really beginning to annoy me. All I have thought about was how I could beat these Carp. It became an obsession. Despite the rivers being open I had to continue chasing my new found nemeses until I beat them. 
Today I was fully prepared. I had a bag full of all the bread I could find in the cupboard, plus some Raspberry cake(hope the kids weren't hungry!). That was to fill the duck's bellies and to keep them away from mybait and loose feed. I had a brand new spool of eight pound line to use as hooklength and a tube of superglue(only 49p from home bargains) to hold the dog biscuit to the hair rig. 

Thankfully, fourth time lucky it worked.Within minutes of arriving I was playing a thirteen pound Common to the net. No mangled mouth, no missing scales and lovely dark colouration, a proper Carp. 

The disturbance meant I had to wait a while before I could tempt one of its mates, this time a little bit bigger weighing 13lb 9oz and not a boilie-belly in sight. 

The majority of the stock here are Commons but there are a few Mirrors and a large Ghostie that I stalked for a while but to no avail. Got to save something for next time.

The next hook up resulted in a hook pull but then finally I landed the real reason for my concerted effort on this water, a stunning long lean Common, 20lb 9oz of pure muscle. 

With the monkey off my back my next session will be on in flowing water but no doubt I will return to the lake every now and then for some more action with these stunners.

Back she goes

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Some Commercial Activity

It is never easy choosing where to go after a great foreign fishing trip and even more difficult at this time of year. It feels like that awkward in between stage, waiting for the rivers to open and a lot of fish in the lakes are in spawning mode. A local commercial was my venue of choice as I knew the fishing wouldn't be amazing anywhere but at least here I would get a few bites.
The Carp were crashing in the margins all day and obviously had their minds on things other than feeding as I only landed two small ones all day. However a few Rudd and Roach obliged along with the annoying little Perch.

However I had the most success with Bream.

Several landed throughout the day up to a biggest of 4lb 10oz, some were spawn-laden females.....

and in amongst them a few spiky males covered in tubercles.

In between bites the bird-life amused me, swifts taking insects off the surface

and a female swan that was desperately trying to ward off the attention of an amorous male.

Nice to be out in the sunshine but I am itching for the rivers to open.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Mexico Segunda Parte

Three days after my big game trip I had a much lighter session planned. Fly rods and spinning gear aboard a light skiff, targeting Bonefish, Tarpon, Barracuda and anything else that was around. My hope was that this would be sight fishing but the water around the mangroves was cloudy and visibility was pretty much zero.
I met the guide at a rickety old marina in an area best described as proper old Mexico. His mum Fatima had picked me up twenty minutes previous from our luxurious hotel lobby and we had travelled only a few miles down the road when the Tarmac had given way to dirt track. We passed numerous shanty huts and a rough looking bar (that probably sold the most amazing Tequila!) before turning into an area worryingly surrounded by broken boats and clapped out old engines presumably only kept for their spare parts. I jumped out of the van to be greeted by Rocky(named after Balboa!) a vicious looking but thankfully friendly dog.
 Fatima spoke excellent English but had not bothered teaching her son(my guide!) but we got by on our mutual Spanglish and the universal language of fishing.
I jumped aboard the rough looking skiff and we made our way across the bay towards the mangroves. My confidence was increased by the amount of seabirds that were working the area, Cormorants that are obviously a close relative of our own but are in fact a different species, the Olivaceous Cormorant

and the huge Frigatebirds or Man O'Wars as they are also called.
The Frigates are everywhere, they have the largest wing span to body size ration of any bird in the world and can spend up to a week on the wing not even landing on water. They are fish eaters, mostly flying fish but also participate in kleptoparasitism, harassing other birds to force them to regurgitate their food so they can eat the part-digested contents! Lovely!

 A sparkly shrimp pattern was attached to the leader but blimey it was tough going. Trying to cast a heavy fly into the stiff breeze coupled with my ring rustiness, I haven't fly fished for months, made presentation poor. The guide punted the boat along the mangrove edge but it wasn't until we came down the opposite bank with the wind at our backs that I was really able to work the fly as I would have liked. The Tarpon showed occasionally but they weren't feeding with any gusto in the searing Mexican heat.

Having worked the whole of the first bay we headed to the next. This involved another trek through the mangroves. The temperature outside the mangroves was approaching thirty degrees but inside the added humidity made it feel ten degrees hotter.

We sweated our way through a particularly narrow pass, my guide on the pole at the stern and me sat on the bow pulling and pushing at the protruding branches trying to steer our pass. Stupidly we had laid the fly rod down on the boat and the tip caught on a branch and snapped clean off two rings down. That was the end of the fly fishing then. At one point while we were wedged between two trees deep in the heart of the mangrove jungle I felt like Jeremy Wade exploring deep in an inhabitable savage land.

Just above in the trees the vultures patiently watched our lack of progress. The noises coming from unseen wildlife were like nothing I have heard before and every now and then there would be a large splash. At the sound of one particularly large splash I glanced at the guide, his one word reply was 'crocodile'. His lack of English didn't fail him that time! This felt like real adventure fishing!

Eventually we reached our destination a beautiful bay completely enclosed. I threw a shrimp like lure into every likely looking hole but only one Tarpon made a move at the lure. I saw the flash of its stunning mirror like scales but it missed its target and we ended our circuit fishless again. I was working extremely hard for very little reward.

Our passage back through the mangrove pass into the first bay seemed easier than before and we steamed off to a completely different area in search of better sport. Around twenty minutes later we reached the flats. The water was much clearer here although there was plenty of weed with random clear patches dotted around. This was Barracuda country with copious amounts of places for these aggressive predators to hide ready to ambush any unsuspecting victims who may wander too close. First cast and the rubber shrimp was nailed instantly.

It was only a baby but the speed of these creatures in the crystal clear water is a sight to behold. More Barracuda and the odd Snapper followed but nothing of any size so we headed out to deeper water in search of bigger Barras.

We saw them, they followed the lure but they hadn't grown big by being stupid like their naive smaller brethren. I changed to a popper with similar results, the odd follow but no takes. The icing on the cake of a quite frustrating day came from the sky when a huge frigatebird took the lure and flew off with it. Thankfully none of the trebles caught in its beak and with a slight tug it dropped its inedible prey. I wouldn't fancy unhooking seven feet of angry 'seagull'! The adventure was over and we made our way back to Rockys place.

Monday, 1 June 2015

El Pez Vela, Mexico

Booking anything on the internet is risky but booking a fishing trip over five thousand miles away and paying $800 is a massive blind leap of faith, mixed metaphors I know. However a family holiday to Mexico was a fishing opportunity not to be missed. So with a large slice of intrepidation I clicked the mouse and entered my bank details.
On the day of the trip I made my way to reception for a 5.50am meet with no idea if anyone would show. I twice checked the date and time on my emailed receipt and grabbed a coffee from the bar. Mexicans only have two types of coffee, strong or really strong but boy does it shake off jet lag! Right on time a minibus pulled up driven by a diminutive 'gringo' who introduced himself and asked if I was Yosef, close enough! Stage one complete.
As we drove through a rough looking area I quizzed him about what it was like. "I would be ok sir" he replied "but it not for you sir, not safe". I changed the subject to football, an easy common denominator. 
We arrived at the marina and I was ushered into a small office full of more dodgy looking gringos, I signed some forms in Spanish with no idea what was written on it and waited. Activity bustled on around me with ice, fishing line, food and beer going forwards and backwards. Lunch was thrust into my hand and I was ushered outside to the coffee pot. I helped myself, needless to say it was strong.
Finally I was introduced to my skipper, Pepe an American looking Mexican who spoke very little English. Thankfully his first mate Juan spoke excellent English inquiring about my previous boat fishing experience and once satisfied that I knew a bit we sped off out of the bay deep into the Gulf of Mexico. Our destination was a deep channel home to a multitude of baitfish which attract the ultimate predators, Blue and White Marlin and the stunning Sailfish. 

Five rods are deployed when trolling, teasers and muppets attached and a garfish-like bait is tied on with wire sewed through its eyeball, thankfully it is already dead! Two rods on down riggers, two on outriggers and one off the top deck.
We had only trolled the baits for about twenty minutes when we got the first hook up, I jumped in the chair and found myself attached to a powerful fish. The unseen adversary twisted and turned, made powerful runs but slowly and surely I kept pumping the rod and gaining the line back. We got a brief glimpse of a huge sail but the fish saw the boat and made one last dash for freedom. Thankfully the hook held firm, I ignored the pain from my aching muscles and brought the fish back up from the deep blue depths and Juan grabbed the stunning beast and hauled it on board. 

For the small price of $1400 the local taxidermists will stuff and mount the fish and ship it anywhere in the world and whilst I thought it would make a great centre piece for our kitchen wall I am not sure the wife would agree! Besides there is no way I could be responsible for killing such a stunning creature. 

The rods were quickly redeployed but I was in no hurry for further action and thankfully the next bite was not too quick in coming along. I was also grateful that when it did come it was a small bluefin tuna of about five pounds, unhooked and chucked in the box to be used later as bait.

By now my limbs had recovered and I was ready for more action. A screaming run followed but this fish did not stay attached for long, the frayed hook link indicated that the escapee was a wahoo. Its razor sharp teeth had made light work of the 80lb line. Wire trace is not used when billfishing the theory being that the fish feel the steel and let go whereas mono is less perceptible.
 More tuna followed all about the same size plus a bonus bonito of over ten pounds, more bait for later I was told. Couldn't wait to see how those were going to be deployed!
Two species ticked off the bucket list and I felt confident that more would follow but the next few hours were very quiet. We trolled and trolled further out towards the Atlantic but nothing happened. "The fish are sleeping" Juan informed me. By now it was 34 degrees so I joined the skipper on the top deck where it was a bit more comfortable in the breeze. A chilled beer or three helped too.
There was to be one more final flurry of activity though. The skipper cut the engine on an obviously known hotspot and three slices of Tuna were despatched to the ocean floor.Within minutes I had a clonking bite and thoroughly enjoyed a stand up battle with a large Grouper.

 Another species ticked off the list and a proper bonus that I did not expect. Several Red Snapper followed to put the finishing touches on a cracking day. 
What did we do before the Internet?!